OAKLAND -- Center fielder Luis Robert Jr. hoped he would be chosen for his first All-Star Game, and even though his selection seemed like a no-brainer, he could not begin to think in earnest about going to Seattle until manager Pedro Grifol gave him the news Sunday morning.
“I wasn’t sure,” Robert said through translator Billy Russo, “but I was confident it would happen. It definitely means a lot. As an individual, it’s a big accomplishment.”
Robert Jr. was one of six selections the Commissioner’s Office makes for each league, partly to ensure every team is represented. Once he got word that in his fourth big league season he would be the lone player representing the White Sox, Robert Jr. said he called and texted his parents, trainers and others who were sitting on pins and needles.
“This is good news for them, too,” he said.
Robert became the first White Sox center fielder to make the All-Star team since Chet Lemon in 1979. Entering Sunday, the 25-year-old ranked among the top five in the American League in slugging percentage, OPS, runs, homers and total bases, not to mention his seven defensive runs saved as one of the top center fielders in the game. Just as important, he has stayed healthy and played in 83 games of Chicago’s 86 games.
Robert had not surpassed 98 games in any of his first three seasons, and he said the chance to play every day allowed him to identify and adjust to issues causing him to struggle, particularly early this season.
Robert's 24 home runs are the most by a White Sox player in the first half since Todd Frazier hit 25 in 2016. He is on pace to hit 45, which would be second most in franchise history behind Albert Belle’s 49 in 1998. Robert also is one of five players in White Sox history (done eight times) to record 20-plus doubles and 20-plus homers before the break, joining Frank Thomas (1993, ‘94, 2003), Magglio Ordonez (2000), Jermaine Dye (2008) and Jose Abreu (2014, ‘19). He is the driving force and prime producer in an uneven White Sox offense.
Robert's trip to Seattle did not look possible after a rough April in which he slashed .202/.248/.414. But he has cut his chasing out of the zone and is coming off a June that included 11 home runs with a .677 slugging percentage.
Asked earlier this weekend what Robert has demonstrated to justify an All-Star berth, Grifol said, “Power, defense, arm, speed. The other day he stole a couple bases in Anaheim. On top of all that, he’s demonstrated growth, maturity, work ethic, ability to apply instruction, aptitude. So my question is, ‘What hasn’t he demonstrated?’
“When you look at pitches in the strike zone, at his OPS and slugging, if he doesn’t chase, he’s one of the top five players in the game.”
Asked which fellow All-Stars he hoped to hang with when he gets to Seattle, Robert said he was psyched to join countrymen he has known for years and played with in Cuba, including AL starting outfielder Randy Arozarena of the Rays as well as Astros outfielder Yordan Alvarez and Rangers outfielder Adolis García, who were selected as reserves. Alvarez is out with an oblique strain and will not play, but can attend.
“That’s definitely going to be special,” he said. “Also, being around Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout, two of the best players in the game, is something that’s got me excited, too.”