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Robert, Thompson discuss AFL fine-tuning

MLB.com @scottmerkin

CHICAGO -- Luis Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, entered Tuesday's Arizona Fall League action with a .356 average, one home run and eight RBIs for Glendale.

Right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson has fanned 12 over 8 2/3 innings for the Desert Dogs.

CHICAGO -- Luis Robert, the No. 4 White Sox prospect per MLB Pipeline, entered Tuesday's Arizona Fall League action with a .356 average, one home run and eight RBIs for Glendale.

Right-handed pitcher Zach Thompson has fanned 12 over 8 2/3 innings for the Desert Dogs.

But it's the experience gained against this higher level of competition truly benefiting these two young White Sox players.

"Pitchers here in the Fall League are better probably. More quality," said Robert through interpreter Billy Russo during a Tuesday conference call. "I say that because during the season the starters you face, the relievers aren't as good as the starters. But here, every pitcher you face is good. Every pitcher has good stuff and it's tough to figure it out. It's a challenge."

"It allowed me to not have a break," said Thompson, as part of the same call. "It sounds kind of weird, but having all that success in season and then coming here, it allowed me to iron out some things."

These players are benefiting behind different causes for their AFL inclusion.

Due to a pair of ligament strains in his left thumb, Robert's first year of professional baseball in the United States was limited to 50 games and 186 at-bats. So, the 21-year-old Cuban, who hit .269 with no homers and 17 RBIs between 2018 in-season stops for the White Sox Arizona Rookie League squad, Class A Kannapolis and Class A Advanced Winston-Salem, is picking up valuable at-bats.

"I've been working on my swing, trying to barrel the ball and cover the strike zone better," Robert said. "Any time you miss time on the field it will delay your process, especially for a young player as I am.

"On the other side, all that time I was off the field has helped me adjust to this process in this new country. That's something I feel good about. Even though I need the time on the field for development, the adjustment process has been good."

Thompson, a fifth-round selection by the White Sox in the 2014 Draft, is coming off a breakout season where he produced a 1.55 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 75 1/3 innings over 43 games between Winston-Salem and Double-A Birmingham. His action with Glendale has allowed Thompson to fine-tune his fastball, cutter and curve, while tinkering with a changeup.

But pitch sequencing has been Thompson's focus while working with Glendale pitching coaches Rigo Beltran and Gerardo Casadiego.

"Even if I make a mistake and miss a spot, it's what the hitter is thinking about; that miss and where I can attack the hitter next," Thompson said. "Then just not falling into a trap of allowing the hitter to have the advantage and throwing in a certain spot with certain pitches and be able to attack both sides of the plate.

"I wouldn't have gone over pitch sequencing if I wasn't here. It allowed me to keep the feel of all my pitches and not lose any touch. Some guys can go two or three months and they kind of lose the feel of the pitch and it takes a while to get it back. I'm able to maintain it and even after this is done, I'll be able to keep maintaining the feel of my pitches going into Spring Training."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

Chicago White Sox