Will White Sox see monster prospect Luis Robert in September ... or 2020?
Before the first game of most homestands, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn comes out to the dugout and takes questions from the media.
Over the last two years, Hahn has opened with injury updates to key players and prospects like Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Carlos Rodon, Dane Dunning, Micker Adolfo and Jake Burger.
Not much has changed on the health front in recent weeks -- Moncada is due back Thursday after missing the past three weeks with a strained hamstring -- so that leaves one hot topic before the Sox open a four-game series against the Rangers at Guaranteed Rate Field.
It's not Jose Abreu's status, even though the veteran first baseman told the Sun-Times Wednesday that he's all but assured of avoiding free agency and coming back with the White Sox next season and beyond.
"(Chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) several times has told me and my family that I am not going to wear a jersey other than a White Sox jersey," Abreu said before the Sox beat the Twins 4-0 at Target Field. "I believe him. I believe in his word. And like I said, I'm very happy with and loyal to this organization. Hopefully, everything is going to pan out."
Throughout the season, Hahn has strongly hinted that Abreu will get an extension at the end of the year.
Luis Robert is the hot topic.
His stellar play in the minor leagues this season is a good sign of what's to come in the majors.
The question is -- does Robert join the Sox when rosters expand in September or does he have to wait until 2020?
I'm leaning toward next year, but let's look at both options:
No offense to the 12 position players that are currently on the White Sox's 25-man roster, including Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Abreu and Tim Anderson, but Robert already looks to be a cut above as an all-around talent.
While rehabbing his ankle injury with Class AA Charlotte in late July, Anderson played five games with Robert.
"Off the charts," Anderson said. "Unbelievable player. He brings a lot of tools. He can run, he's fast. He's a good defensive player and he can hit. He can do everything."
Would Anderson urge Hahn to bring the 22-year-old center fielder up in September?
"Nah, not my job," Anderson said. "But if he keeps doing what he's doing, I don't think I'll have to whisper. I think Rick Hahn will call him up."
For as good as he's been all season, Robert has somehow taken it up another notch over his last 8 games with Charlotte heading into Wednesday's play, going 13-for-36 with 5 home runs and 12 RBI.
On the season, he is batting .336/.387/.634 with 29 home runs, 85 RBI and 36 stolen bases in 110 games for high Class A Winston-Salem, AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte.
When Robert was slashing .314/.362/.518 in 56 games with Birmingham, White Sox director of player development Chris Getz dropped in for a visit and talked with some veteran Southern League scouts.
"Some guys said they haven't see a player like this come through there in some time," Getz said.
Playing with the Sox in September would give Robert an early jump on adjusting to major-league pitching and allow him to be more prepared to do immediate damage at the start of next season.
White Sox fans who are struggling through a seventh straight losing season would also perk back up if Robert was in the lineup over the final month.
Why do I get the feeling Robert is not with the Sox until next year?
He's already played at three levels this season and the gut feeling is that's more than enough. Robert also played 18 games in the Arizona Fall League after the 2018 season, which was limited to 50 games due to a nagging thumb injury.
Here is Hahn on Robert shortly after he was promoted to Birmingham in late April.
"He's creating good trouble," the White Sox's GM said. "We're OK with guys who are playing the way he's playing, perhaps changing our plans on us. Obviously, Luis earned that promotion to Double-A. If he continues to do in the Southern League something similar to what he did in the Carolina League and he forces our hand in terms of moving him again this year, that's just fine.
"For me, given his age and given he's played roughly 70, 75 pro games with an affiliate, it wouldn't be in the least bit a disappointment to me if he winds up having a nice solid year in Double-A and spends the rest of the year in the Southern League. That's just fine from a developmental path to still put him on a really, really good path to being an impactful big leaguer."
Robert has gone way beyond having a nice, solid year at Birmingham, but the Cuba native is still getting acclimated to playing in the United States and absorbing a new culture, and the White Sox are wary of putting too much on his plate.
There is also the service time consideration, and getting an extra year of contractual control on Robert if they wait until next April to bring him up.
That was an issue with Jimenez last year. He wound up agreeing to a six-year, $43 million contract in March, but the rookie left fielder was not on the White Sox's roster last September.