Luis Robert - The Real Deal?
Rated the third best prospect in the game, and the White Sox best prospect, Luis Robert had a ton of hype surrounding him. Noted to be the best prospect out of Cuba since Yoan Moncada, now his teammate, Robert carried many similarities of Moncada over with him. Bat speed, raw power, and speed are Robert's three greatest tools coming in to the league. Even though this season was shortened, the White Sox called him up after three years in the minors. Between rookie ball up to AAA, Robert hit 35 homers, stole 63 bases, and carried a career OPS of .932. It was no shock to anyone that Robert immediately succeeded. For the month of August, Robert hit .298 with nine homers and had an OPS of 1.015. He captured a Gold Glove and is surely on his way to Rookie of the Year. In one of our recent breaks, we were discussing if Robert will be the real deal. Granted, I'm working with a once in a lifetime shortened season's worth of data, but you can still pull enough information thanks to the wonders of Statcast and Fangraphs. For a color code reference, green is good, black is neutral, and blue is bad. Let's check this out:
Outs Above Average (OAA) 99th percentile
Outfielder Jump (OJ) 70th percentile
Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) 8
Arm Strength (ARM) -2.9
Robert makes up for his below average arm strength with his incredible ability to chase down well hit balls. For reference, check out the fielding graph below. I compared Luis Robert (left) to Starling Marte (right). I used Marte as an example here because he is regarded as an above average center fielder.
What pops out most to me is the zone that Robert covers compared to Marte. The red zone factors in each players range plus their sprint speed. It's obvious Robert covers more ground. Also, check out the horizontal difference of the hard red line between the two. This couples in with the sprint speed, but shows you that a majority of the balls that Robert/Marte catches are inside of that zone. As you can see, Robert covers more ground consistently. Looking at the advanced statistics, this chart backs up what the numbers spit out. Having 8 DRS, puts Robert third this past year behind Kiermaier and Buxton. His arm will get him into trouble though. Even with Robert playing the third most innings in center field, he ranked dead last in arm strength. His ability to track down the balls that most people can't get to is great, which offsets the huge negative impact of the lack of arm strength.
xBA 20th percentile
xwOBA 48th percentile
K% 6th percentile
Whiff % 2nd percentile
We all know that the MLB has moved towards homers or nothing, but making consistent contact is still a crucial aspect of the game. We do know Robert has smoked some home runs this year, but this section focuses solely on contact and walks. 40% of Robert's hits this year were extra base hits. Compare that to Whit Merrifield, more of the middle of the line in terms of power and contact, where 30% of his hits were extra base hits. Robert did manage 20 walks this year (as seen by the xwOBA), which shows promise over the paltry Whiff and K%. Check out the hit charts for Robert below:
Notice the one consistent trend? LuBob loves the bottom right of the zone. His willingness to extend his arms to try and hit balls out of the zone consistently lead to him swinging and missing. Knowing this data, pitchers will attack this. That's evident by the amount of breaking and off speed pitches he's seen. Robert saw nearly 45% of his pitches being exactly that. He whiffed on almost 57% of off speed pitches and 46% of breaking balls. To bolster this even more, his swing, chase, and whiff percentage were all 10% or more over the MLB average. It's easy for me to sit here and say, "All Robert has to do is not swing the bat", but that's really what it is. He's always had incredible raw power, but you cannot be striking out as much as Aaron Judge when you're five inches shorter than him.
Hitting for Power
Exit Velo (EV) 34th percentile
Hard Hit % 56th percentile
xSLG 69th percentile
Barrel % 85th percentile
How does a player that was on pace for 32 homers have such a low EV? It's really simple. Robert punishes mistakes:
Every one of his eleven homers were basically middle-middle. Because of this, his hard contact and barrel % are above average. Other than these middle-middle bombs, he struggles to square up pitches that aren't in the middle of the plate. This is another example of pitchers taking advantage of a young player.
Sprint Speed 96th percentile
The biggest buzz around LuBpb is that he has the potential of being a 30/30 player. Assuming a full season with no games off, Robert would have finished with 32 homers and 26 stolen bases. Out of all players, Robert ranks 21st in sprint speed. As mentioned before, this helps him out on the field, but once Robert boosts his contact up, he'll be a menace on the base paths. He also might want to work on his sliding:
Luis Robert has the foundational tools to become a top tier center fielder. His sprint speed and range in the outfield, coupled with his raw power will make him the leagues next 30/30 player. Once he becomes more disciplined at the plate, Robert could touch 40 homers. He's surrounded by great hitters on this White Sox team (Abreu, Anderson, Eloy, Grandal) that will surely teach him about plate approach. Oh, and he's only 22.