White Sox's Robert looks like real deal as center fielder of future
It's not a stretch to say Luis Robert is the Chicago White Sox's best center fielder, regardless of the level.
Even though the 20-year-old prospect has never played a minor-league game in the United States, Robert showed he can make a major impact this spring.
Appearing in 9 Cactus League games for the Sox, Robert was 3-for-10 and he hit a grand slam against the Reds last Wednesday.
Unfortunately for Robert - and the White Sox - he also suffered a left thumb injury earlier in the game against Cincinnati.
Robert somehow managed to stay on the field and hit the home run that decided the outcome, but he is expected to miss 10 weeks while the sprained ligament heals.
There was no way Robert was going to break camp on the Sox's 25-man roster, and the injury is going delay his development time.
On the plus side, a healthy Robert appears to be the real deal, and he looks like a player that could help the White Sox as soon as the second half of 2019.
Earlier in spring training, Robert was in a hitting group with another top outfield prospect, Eloy Jimenez.
"I've had the opportunity to spend some time with him and he's a good person," Jimenez said. "His swing is good. I think his swing is ready for the level in this country. I don't know what level he's going to be, but I think his swing is really good and he's ready for this country."
When the cast on his thumb comes off and Robert gets back into playing shape, he's likely to play for low Class A Kannapolis and end the season at high A Winston-Salem.
While the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Robert gains needed experience in the minor leagues, it looks like Adam Engel returns as the Sox's primary center fielder.
Called up from Class AAA Charlotte on May 27 last season, Engel played solid defense. His bat was the problem.
Expected to hit after winning Arizona Fall League MVP honors with a .403 average after the 2015 season, Engel posted a .166/.235/.282 slash line with 6 home runs and 21 RBI in 97 games with the White Sox last year.
"Adam Engel's a tremendously gifted center fielder for us," manager Rick Renteria said earlier in training camp. "We look for him to show us, as he's worked through the winter, that he's continued to improve on his offensive capabilities. We're confident that he's going to be able to do that.
"At this point, now it becomes a matter of performance and continuing to grow in that particular aspect. And like any and all of our players, for us not to grow too impatient."
The versatile Leury Garcia also figures to get playing time in center field, and keep an eye on Ryan Cordell.
Acquired from the Brewers in a trade for relief pitcher Anthony Swarzak last July, Cordell is recovered from a back strain injury that limited him to 68 games with Class AAA Colorado Springs in 2017.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder is a fluid athlete, and Cordell was batting .360 (9-for-25) in his first 10 Cactus League games with the Sox.
Charlie Tilson is another option for the Sox in center.
Already assigned to Charlotte out of major-league camp, Tilson needs at-bats after missing all of last season with foot and ankle injuries.