Luis Robert signed a six-year, $50M contract this offseason, locking him into the Opening Day roster. He creates an outfield of the future for the Chicago White Sox of Eloy Jimenez, Robert, and recently acquired Nomar Mazara (who opens the season on the IL).
Robert brings a rare combination of speed and power that saw him top 30 doubles, home runs, and steals a season ago, something MLB.com points out hasn’t happened in the minors since 1961. He was nearly a consensus top five prospect in all of baseball, and he will get the opportunity to show why when he bats seventh in the White Sox opener.
He has plus speed and very good defensive instincts that will allow him to stick in center, but a cannon of an arm that would be more than enough to hold down right. At the plate he hit a career .314 when still in Cuba and a teenager, and has hit nearly as well, .312, in his minor league career. He has an OPS of .932 in the minors, including over 1 over three levels a season ago.
Robert has all the makings of a future star and multi-time All-Star, but there is still plenty of refinement needed. While the ball absolutely flies off his bat, he has struck out nearly four times to every walk, and nearly six times a season ago, so there is plenty of room for improvement in his plate discipline. 11 of his career 18 caught stealing came a season ago, again pointing to the fact there is refinement to be made in the baserunning department.
He will certainly have an impact with the White Sox this season and is the favorite to be named Rookie of the Year, but it is the seasons to come that should have Sox fans truly excited.
There are plenty of big signing going down at the Winter Meetings in San Diego, but plenty of quality trades taking place as well. The latest, Nomar Mazara headed to the South Side to play for the Chicago White Sox in exchange for outfield prospect Steele Walker.
In the 2018 draft Oklahoma had two highly touted outfield prospects and there was some debate on who would be the better pro. I was on the Steele Walker side of the argument as I felt he was a more polished baseball player, and there was a guarantee he would stick with baseball. That other outfielder no longer plays baseball because he is busy on Sunday’s quarterbacking the Arizona Cardinals, Kyler Murray.
The best tool for Walker is one that is tough to teach, and that is pitch recognition. He demonstrates a plus aye at the plate that has allowed for an OBP better than 70 points higher than his batting average. He has a low stride that allows him to keep his balance well and adjust to off-speed. The hands are quick allowing the bat speed to translate to at least average power.
He is a quality athlete but is no burner, however he has quality instincts that allow him to play a serviceable center field, although left is a better fit. Don’t give up on the idea of him staying in center though, as plenty within the organization are confident he will be able to stick there long term.
In the end, I see him as a fringe-average everyday outfielder or a high-quality number four that can hold his own at all three spots, although the arm is really his lone below average tool. He has the upside of a .275 hitter with 15-20 home run power that provides quality ABs near the bottom of a lineup.
Before I even got this posted Alex Reyes exhausted his rookie eligibility (needed a single out to do so and pitched an inning on Friday) so I updated my top 150 before it went live. Reyes was at 22 but is now removed making room for Ryan Weathers, giving the Padres two more than any other team with 12 players making the top 150. 15 players on the list open the season in the big leagues, with 14 of those in the top 80 and the Padres and Mariners both starting with two players in the big leagues.
Quick Report: In the running for the top prospect in the game outside of Vlad Jr., Jimenez is not just a power bat, although he has as much raw power as anyone in the game. He has a decent sized leg kick, but gets the foot back down and ready to explode early. The bat gets to the zone quickly, but stays in the zone a while allowing him to adjust even on balls he has been fooled on and drive the ball to all fields. There was a time I thought he could hold down right but he seems more destined for left field. He is the best outfielder on the White Sox right now, but will need to wait until a little while into the season when the team can secure an extra year of control.
Quick Report: There is not debate whether or not Madrigal can hit, he might have the best pure bat to ball skills as anyone in the minors, it is where he will play in the field. I still think there is an outside shot he is able to stay at short, but second is certainly the most likely destination. He will hit for plenty of doubles and may eventually develop solid power, but never more than 15 or so homers. He is a throwback player who will do all he can to stick at short, but could become an elite second baseman. He doesn’t strikeout, just five in his first 173 trips to the plate as a pro, and could be a future regular participant in All-Star games.
Quick Report: Many have touted Kopech as a potential ace, but I have always felt he is more of a dominant closer than an impact starter long term. He will be missing all of 2019 as he underwent elbow reconstruction surgery this off-season. He has long been known as a guy with a massive fastball, a genuine 80 grade pitch, but there are inconsistencies in his other pitches. His hard slider is easily his best secondary offering that does work plus more often than not. He has a curve and change that have shown well, but also shown to be not so great at times. His 3/4 slot delivery is actually pretty smooth, but his command has long been a concern. If he can put it all together, he can pitch at the front of a rotation, but if the velocity doesn’t fully come back and the command doesn’t improve, he could be destined for a late-inning reliever.
Quick Report: If the sixth tool on the scouting scale was availability, Robert would have a big negative. Luckily, it isn’t, although the multitude of injuries in 2018 does raise more than a few red flags. When on the field, Robert can fly around the bases and in center, possesses enough arm to play right, but the reads make it almost a sure thing he is a plus defensive center fielder for years to come. At the plate, he can hit for a solid average, likely being a guy that sits .265-.275, but with above average power. He is a legit five-tool player, but needs to stay healthy long enough to put it all together.
Quick Report: Cease doesn’t quite have the fastball Kopech does, but his other pitches might be better. Curve that is genuinely plus and one of the better ones in the minors. He has a solid slider and change, although both still do need work. Like Kopech, he has trouble throwing strikes consistently, but he has good body control that suggests command should improve. Again, this is a guy that could end up near the top of a rotation, or he could be a dominant reliever depending on how the command comes along.
Quick Report: A fastball that really runs helps it play up to a plus pitch and a curve with has a big break but comes out of a slightly different hand location making it easy to read. He also has a cutting slider and a developing change that dives and runs at its best, but isn’t’ there often enough. He has a good delivery that is repeatable and the leg drive to allow him to eat innings. There isn’t a ton of upside with Dunning, but there isn’t much downside either. He will likely be a third or fourth guy in a rotation that with have his excellent days, but will almost always put in 6 strong, and that is definitely a valuable commodity.
Quick Report: It seems the White Sox have a lot of guys with similar issues. Like Robert, Adolfo simply hasn’t been healthy often enough to put it all together. He has not played more than 79 games but once in his five pro seasons. He gets his hands through the zone well, limiting the typical holes in the zone you see from power hitters of his stature. He won’t ever be a great hit for average guy, but I do think the strikeouts will slow in time. He has plus power that translates to game power and has as massive arm (although he hasn’t been able to show it off for some time after dealing with elbow issues that eventually led to Tommy John surgery). He has the potential to be one of the better right fielders in the game, but needs to be healthy and available to see that come to fruition.
Quick Report: The question that sparks the most debate on Basabe is whether or not he sticks in center. I think he has all the skills to do so (although has some real competition for it within the White Sox system). He is small, I question if he is truly 6’, and the 160 lbs. seems like it might be pretty accurate. He has a mild leg kick on both sides of the plate, although it is a bit bigger from the left side. His bat path is one that allows him to drive the ball and could flirt with plus power if he adds strength. His arm is strong enough to play right but could be a guy that sees time in all three outfield spots at the big league level.
Quick Report: Of the four outfielders in the White Sox top ten, Rutherford has the best approach at the plate. He goes to the plate with a plan and has a great eye to go with a pretty left handed stroke. The bat is quick and can drive the ball to all fields, although it works best when he inside-outs the ball to left center. He will likely be more of a doubles guy than one that puts up big home run numbers, but that could change some in time. If there is one big concern it would be his struggles against left handed pitchers thus far, leading many to feel he would have to be platooned, but it would be the heavy side of the platoon. He has seen time in all three outfield positions in the minors, but his future is in right where his arm can play and his average speed and reads won’t be exposed.
Quick Report: I first interviewed Alec Hansen when he was at Oklahoma and I doubt he is only 6’7” like he is listed. He is a competitive pitcher that attacks hitters, which made it very surprising to hear how soft spoken he is off the mound. He does have a bit of a short arm to his delivery that limits his ability to take full advantage of his length, although he has shown the ability to get the arm into a full 3/4 slot. The inconsistencies in the arm slot lead to some command concerns and could be the downfall in his path to the big leagues. He has dealt with some forearm tightness issues, which is never a good sign, but I do feel there is some upside of an innings eating starter. If he doesn’t get the command under control however, he will likely need to become a power reliever to make a real big league impact.