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Robert aims to prove MLB-ready in spring camp

@Russ_Dorsey1
January 28, 2020

CHICAGO -- There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the White Sox this offseason, and much of the excitement is due to the expected arrival of highly touted prospect Luis Robert this upcoming season. Robert -- MLB’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- has yet to make his

CHICAGO -- There’s been a lot of buzz surrounding the White Sox this offseason, and much of the excitement is due to the expected arrival of highly touted prospect Luis Robert this upcoming season.

Robert -- MLB’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline -- has yet to make his Major League debut, but after signing a new six-year, $50 million deal earlier this month, there’s an expectation the five-tool prospect could break camp with the White Sox when the season starts.

“We haven’t had any conversations about that, but I’m very ready and open to whatever the team wants me to do,” Robert said during SoxFest last weekend, through interpreter Billy Russo. “I want to prove in Spring Training that I’m able to do a good job in the Majors, and we’ll see."

The White Sox have their eyes on competing for their first American League Central title since 2008, and the team expects Robert to be a big part of that effort.The 22-year-old outfielder had a busy 2019 season as he played at Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte.

Despite playing across three levels, Robert crushed his competition, slashing .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs and 36 stolen bases in 122 games, and he ended the year earning honor after honor: MLB Pipeline's 2019 Hitter of the Year, USA Today's Minor League Player of the Year and White Sox Minor League Player of the Year Award.

“I think last year was very important. Even though I had short stints at every single level in the Minors, I think that experience was good for me,” Robert said. “I had a chance to taste what it was like growing up in the Minors. When I got to Triple-A, it really challenged me, because I knew that the level there was high compared to the other levels. But I feel that experience made me better. It prepared me for what is coming in the big leagues.”

"You saw how teams treated Eloy [Jímenez]. They treated him like a seasoned vet in terms of setting him up and trying to exploit some weaknesses off the plate with some breaking balls," general manager Rick Hahn said. "I think you're going to see Luis get that same treatment. I don't think you're gonna see too many guys challenging him early with fastballs, because they're going to know the report. He's not a finished product at age 22, obviously. [He's] a guy who's played pro ball for a little over two full seasons, basically. But that acclimation period, I think, could well come together fairly quickly. We'll find out together, but we're certainly very excited to see that development."

The lofty numbers from last season come with lofty expectations for Robert, who is an early candidate for the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award alongside the likes of Angels outfielder Jo Adell, A's pitcher Jesus Luzardo and even fellow White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal.

"As every young player in the Major Leagues, I want to be Rookie of the Year and win a [World Series] championship," Robert said.

“I try not to pay attention to what happens with other guys. I’m going to do my best every single day and try to get good results, and if for whatever reason I don’t get the results that I’m hoping, it won’t be for lack of effort.”

Robert’s journey to becoming a full-time Major Leaguer isn’t one he’ll have to go through alone. His teammate and fellow Cuban José Abreu has been a guide for several of the White Sox young stars and will continue to do the same for the young outfielder.

“I think everybody's excited to see what kind of player he can be,” Abreu said. “I think the stats, the numbers, are going to be there.”

“During this offseason, I’ve been working with [Abreu] and I think he’s going to be the guy who will let me know what to improve in Spring Training,” Robert said. “He’s going to be in my ear the whole time, and he’s going to let me know when I’m doing things wrong or when there’s something specific that I need to improve. I’m confident in him. I trust him.”

Russell Dorsey is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Chicago. Follow him on Twitter @Russ_Dorsey1.