MLB: Winter Meetings

South Side Morning 5: More to say about Luis Robert

1. Since news broke Saturday that the White Sox have agreed to terms with Cuban star Luis Robert there’s been plenty of excitement about both his skill set and what that type of signing means for the White Sox future and their commitment to the future.

The one piece that threw a bit of cold water on the excitement Tuesday came from ESPN’s Keith Law, who wondered if the White Sox committed too much money to someone who might wind up more like the Cuban imports who failed (Rusney Castillo, Hector Olivera) than those who succeeded (Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig).

Law is a respected evaluator and admits he’s yet to see Robert in person — instead relying on info he’s received from scouts who have — but while the concern that Robert won’t live up to the money the White Sox committed to him is valid, the risks that come with a player of his ilk are not unlike basically any other prospect.

No young player, whether he’s a draft pick or international signee, is a finished product. Robert is no sure thing, just like any Global Top 100 or even Top 10 prospect isn’t a sure thing. But in order for the White Sox to build a competitive core and find long-term success, they need to be able to take risks like committing multi-million dollar contracts to 19-year-old players.

So while Robert isn’t a sure thing, he’s a smart, calculated signing from a team that hasn’t been willing to commit those kinds of resources all that often in the past. A necessary and important step in the right direction.

2. Dylan Covey left Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Diamondbacks with an oblique injury after giving up four runs in 2 1/3 innings, and the White Sox somehow stayed within striking distance while Chris Beck, Gregory Infante, and David Holmberg survived the next 4 2/3 innings.

From a short-term perspective, that trio surviving the evening was important for a team playing its ninth of 10 straight west coast games. But while Covey hasn’t showed much in terms of progress during his eight starts, the White Sox pitching rotation depth is growing increasingly thin if Covey joins Carlos Rodon and James Shields on the disabled list.

If Covey does miss time, the White Sox options pretty much boil down to another quad-A placeholder like Chris Volstad (and his 6.55 ERA in Charlotte), the low ceiling but at least somewhat enticing Tyler Danish, or the anticipated ascension of Reynaldo Lopez. While the White Sox have a much needed day off Thursday, a doubleheader Friday complicates things. Whether they decide someone like Lopez is ready or not will likely be known by whether or not they opt for him or another short-term fix.

3. Speaking of injuries, Rick Hahn gave an update on the host of disabled White Sox Monday, and while no timetable was given on the return of Rodon, the fact that he is continuing to throw every fifth day and ramping up his workload is obviously a good sign.

We’re past the point of expecting Rodon to post the breakout season that was hoped for before the season began, and at this point him just proving he can look like his old self for a few months would be a step in the right direction. We’re still a ways off from him joining the rotation, but if he’s able to do that successfully, it’ll go a long way toward this injury becoming more of a minor road bump in his career than a major issue.

4. Omar Narvaez entered the season as one of several young players looking to prove they belonged on a major league roster. Thus far, he’s been about everything he was a year ago, which is to say his defense neither stands out nor offends, and he gets on base a ton while hitting for practically no power.

FRAA still doesn’t like him much — he grades out at -1.1, which is 14th out of the 21 with at least as many framing opportunities as him this season. But he was -4.1 a year ago in nearly as many opportunities, so there have been signs of improvement.

Offensively, his walk rate would be among the Top 10 in the league if he had enough plate appearances to qualify, but he also has all of two extra base hits, slugging a paltry .264, somehow about 70 points lower than a year ago. While Narvaez still has only a little more than 200 plate appearances to his credit thus far in his career, a pretty solid performance baseline seems to have been set.

5. One of the fun things about outscoring a team 26-3 over a three-game span, as the White Sox did over the weekend in Seattle, is that you wake up and your mediocre baseball team suddenly has the best run differential in the division.

The American League Central is proving to be about as average as everyone expected this season, with only the Royals looking like a hilarious train wreck thus far and Cleveland failing to separate themselves early on. Minnesota is off to a surprising but almost certainly unsustainable good start, and the Tigers are neither good nor bad, which is pretty boring.

Things will almost certainly stabilize, and the smart money is still on Cleveland running away with things before long (their odds of winning the division is 76 percent), but it’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day of the White Sox rebuild and forget just how terribly average most of their main competition is as well.

Lead Photo Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Related Articles

Leave a comment

Use your Baseball Prospectus username