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Robert making up for lost time in Fall League

October 16, 2018

Shortly before international signing rules drastically changed in the summer of 2017, the White Sox splurged one more time. That May, they gave Luis Robert a $26 million bonus -- the second-highest ever for an amateur, trailing only the $31 million the Red Sox handed Yoan Moncada -- and paid

Shortly before international signing rules drastically changed in the summer of 2017, the White Sox splurged one more time. That May, they gave Luis Robert a $26 million bonus -- the second-highest ever for an amateur, trailing only the $31 million the Red Sox handed Yoan Moncada -- and paid a matching amount as a penalty for exceeding their spending pool.
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
Robert had batted .401/.526/.687 in Cuba's top league as an 18-year-old in 2016, so Chicago hoped the potential five-tool outfielder could adapt easily to the Minors and advance rapidly. While his physical ability has been evident, he has had difficulty staying healthy.
Sent to the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League for his 2017 pro debut, he appeared in just 28 games while dealing with minor knee and ankle injuries. He injured ligaments in his left thumb on a slide during a Cactus League game this March, knocking him out for three months. He earned a promotion from low Class A Kannapolis to high Class A Winston-Salem after just two weeks, only to aggravate his thumb soon thereafter, forcing him to miss another month.
After all that inactivity, Robert, the White Sox No. 4 prospect, said he was thrilled and honored to get the opportunity to play in the Arizona Fall League. He worked on improving his English while sidelined but was frustrated by not being able to play.
"Unfortunately because of the thumb injury, I wasn't able to work on my game and keep getting better," Robert said through an interpreter. "But I'm happy that I'm here now."
Robert collected hits in his first four AFL starts for the Glendale Desert Dogs before tweaking a hamstring while running to first base on Oct. 12. His latest injury isn't considered serious and should cost him only a couple of games.
In 50 games between three levels this year, Robert batted .269/.333/.360 with 15 steals. He has the raw power and well above-average speed to be at least a 20-20 player, though he'll need to improve his plate discipline. Besides getting some much-needed reps, he hopes to use his time in the Fall League to hone his right-handed swing.
"My goal down here is just to perfect my swing," Robert said. "That way I can have better results here in the United States. I was coming in and out of the zone really quick with my bat. What we're trying to work on is that my bat stays on the plane a little longer so I can stay with the ball a little longer, maybe more with the secondary pitches."
Robert also needs to polish his center-field defense. With his speed and solid arm strength, he's capable of playing anywhere in the outfield, though it's his offensive potential that led the White Sox to invest $52 million in him.
White Sox hitters in the Fall League
Luis Alexander Basabe, OF -- Part of the Chris Sale trade with the Red Sox in December 2016, Basabe introduced himself to a national audience by homering off a 102-mph fastball from the Reds' Hunter Greene at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game this July. A switch-hitting center fielder with 20-20 potential, the Venezuelan batted .258/.354/.445 with 15 homers and 16 steals between Class A Advanced and Double-A in 2018.

Laz Rivera, SS -- Signed for $1,000 as a 28th-rounder out of Tampa in 2017, Rivera opened eyes by hitting .314/.361/.471 with 13 homers and 17 steals between two Class A stops during his first full pro season. He has impressive feel for the barrel and shows gap power with average speed and defensive ability.
White Sox pitchers in the Fall League
Tanner Banks, LHP -- A strike-throwing left-hander selected in the 18th round out of Utah in 2014, Banks led White Sox farmhands with 12 wins and ranked third with a 2.59 ERA while recording a 100/32 K/BB ratio in 146 innings between Class A Advanced and Double-A. His cutter is his best offering, and he also owns an 88-91 mph fastball and a curveball.
Zack Burdi, RHP -- The 26th overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Burdi ended his first pro season in Triple-A and seemed on the fast track to Chicago before having Tommy John surgery the following July. He showed closer stuff before he blew out his elbow, with a fastball that reached 102 mph and a sometimes-wipeout slider that climbed into the low 90s, and returned to work 6 1/3 innings in Rookie ball this summer.
Danny Dopico, RHP -- Dopico has averaged 12.1 strikeouts per nine innings since signing as an 11th-rounder from Florida International in 2015, getting swings and misses with a 92-96 mph fastball and a splitter and slider in the low 80s. He logged a 2.98 ERA with 77 strikeouts in 60 1/3 innings this year, mostly in high Class A.
Zach Thompson, RHP -- Thompson excelled in his first season as a full-time reliever, recording a 1.55 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings between high Class A and Double-A. The 2014 fifth-rounder from Texas-Arlington pairs a 92-96 fastball with a spike curveball that grades as a plus pitch at its best, and his 6-foot-7 frame creates nice angle.

Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. Listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.