The White Sox continue to train for the 60 game pandemic-shorten season as the hype for the team’s begins to build once again. Fans are excited to finally see the mix of Chicago’s recent free-agent acquisitions pair with the young prospects the team has been developing over the last few seasons. One player that fans and media are extremely excited about is outfielder Luis Robert, who will be making his debut on July 24th, and could be a massive influence on the White Sox season.
Robert signed a six-year contract extension on January 2nd, voiding the service time restrictions that would have kept him in the minors at the start of the 2020 season. Fans and media immediately rejoiced as the Cuban outfielder would now play the whole season in the majors. Before the season was postponed and reduced due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Robert was a favorite to win Rookie of the Year and be one of the best prospects to debut in years. The White Sox top prospect was ranked number one on MLB’s Top 100 Prospects list in the last year also.
Not only does Robert have a chance to be the Rookie of the Year in 2020, but given the circumstances surrounding the 2020 season, he could be an MVP candidate too. His performance last season in Triple-A Charlotte serves as a prime example of why he can be the best player in the American League this season. In 47 games last year, Robert hit 16 home runs, drove in 39 RBIs, and posted an OPS of .947. Where most players’ numbers decrease when being promoted from Double-A to Triple-A, the outfield prospect did the exact opposite.
The other reason why there is a good chance for Robert to make an immediate impact is because of the conditions he will be playing to start. In 2019, the White Sox had outfielder Eloy Jimenez start the season in the majors after signing a contract extension to bypass service time rules. Jimenez’s debut came in late-March, as the team’s first two weeks of games were played in cold conditions. Along with the cold temperatures, The White Sox 2019 rookie struggled with pressure wanting to impress fans for their support for him. The extenuating factors led to Jimenez to struggle as his first extra-base hit did come until the 11th game of the season, and his first home run didn’t come until the following game. Robert will not have to worry about either of those issues as the season will start in hot temperatures, and there will be no fans in attendance to provide any pressure.
The new regulations for team rosters could also benefit Robert as with the expanded rosters, and the possibility of players testing positive could limit the talent-level he faces and could reduce opposing teams’ ability to adjust to him. He could play a majority of the season without teams fully-figuring him out like they would in a full 162 game season. It could be a similar situation that future Hall of Fame outfielder Ichiro Suzuki had in his rookie season of 2001. Suzuki led the league in plate appearances, at-bats, hits, stolen bases, and batting average. He would become the first player to win both MVP and Rookie of the Year honors since Fred Lynn.
Robert is a different type of hitter than Suzuki, but has the potential to take the league by storm in a similar fashion, especially in shorten-season. If the rookie can stay healthy and avoid testing positive for COVID, he has a chance to one of the best players this year. Chicago could be one of the best teams in 2020, and if they are, Robert will have a large role in that success.