Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Robert tees off atop White Sox lineup

Batting leadoff, No. 3 overall prospect collects four hits
Luis Robert leads all rookies with five extra-base hits and ranks second with 21 total bases. (Charlie Riedel/AP)
August 2, 2020

Luis Robert had to replace the reigning American League batting champion on Saturday, and all he could muster in response was a 415-foot dinger and nine total bases in an 11-5 White Sox win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium. With Tim Anderson’s pregame move to the Injured List, Robert

Luis Robert had to replace the reigning American League batting champion on Saturday, and all he could muster in response was a 415-foot dinger and nine total bases in an 11-5 White Sox win over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

With Tim Anderson’s pregame move to the Injured List, Robert slid into the leadoff spot and finished a triple shy of the cycle while posting the first four-hit game of his brief Major League career. Chicago’s top prospect knocked in two runs and scored twice. He’s batting .364/.382/.636 through nine games, with five of his 12 hits going for extra bases.

White Sox manager Rick Renteria told reporters prior to the game that Robert's new spot atop the batting order might not be an everyday assignment while Anderson is sidelined. After the game, he was asked if Robert had at least earned the role for Sunday.

"I would say absolutely 110 percent yes," Renteria said.

Robert hit leadoff in 89 Minor League games last season. It's not new, even if it was a first for him in the Majors

"I feel comfortable in that position," Robert told reporters through teammate Eloy Jiménez, who translated. "I didn't have to do anything different. I was in that position in Cuba and I did it last year."

The job fits Robert's aggressive approach. He didn't post a walk rate higher than 5.3 percent at any of his three stops in the Minor Leagues last season and he racked 129 strikeouts. But that's not all that different from what the White Sox are used to out of the leadoff spot. Anderson's 2.9 percent walk rate last season ranked in the bottom 1 percent of baseball.

"Timmy's been doing that for a while," Renteria said. "So what's the difference between Timmy and Luis Robert? Everybody wants Luis Robert at the top. They want to see it. Him and Timmy are actually very similar types of hitters in terms of their approach. Luis is a young man who's got a tremendous amount of strength."

Exhibit A: With one out in the second inning, the first pitch Robert saw was a 95 mph fastball down the pipe from No. 16 Royals prospect Ronald Bolaños. He sent it the opposite way for his second big league homer to put Chicago up, 5-0. The blast had an exit velocity of 106.6 mph.’s No. 3 overall prospect continued to hunt early in the count. Facing right-hander Kevin McCarthy leading off the fourth, Robert knocked a first-pitch single to left. He sent a 1-1 hanging slider from right-hander Jake Newberry to center field for a double in the fifth. That plated Leury García with Chicago’s sixth run, and Yoán Moncada singled in Robert two pitches later.

An 0-1 curveball from righty Kyle Zimmer in the seventh turned into Robert’s fourth and final hit, rolling down the left field line for the 22-year-old’s second double of the night. He flied to center in the ninth to finish 4-for-6.

"He's one of the best players I've ever seen," Jimenez said.

Saturday’s offensive showcase proved why the White Sox were comfortable signing the Cuba native to an eight-year contract extension that could be worth up to $88 million before he ever played a Major League game. Robert mashed his way through the Minors last season, going from an injury-riddled homerless 2018 to a .328/.376/.624 slash line with 32 long balls and 36 stolen bases across three levels during his climb to Triple-A.

Fourth-ranked White Sox prospect Nick Madrigal, who also went from Class A Advanced to Triple-A last season, went 0-for-5 on Saturday in his second big league game. Madrigal, a career .309 hitter in the Minors, didn't log a hit Friday either.

"He looks like he's taking the at-bats the way he needs to," Renteria said. "Sooner rather than later, they'll fall. We'll have times where we'll give him a break, give him a breath ... but I think he's going to be absolutely fine."

In other action:

Yankees 5, Red Sox 2

After Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka was limited to 2 2/3 innings in his return to the mound, No. 16 prospect Nick Nelson steadied the ship with three innings of strong relief. It was the right-hander’s Major League debut, but he looked like a veteran -- Nelson did not allow a hit while and walked two while striking out four. He picked up the victory, making him the first Yankee reliever to earn the win in his debut since Héctor Noesi on May 8, 2011. Box score

Braves 7, Mets 1

Summoned to the Mets on Friday, Franklyn Kilomé made his Major League debut in relief in Atlanta. The club’s No. 12 prospect allowed two runs on two hits with five strikeouts over four innings. He yielded a run in the fifth and surrendered a leadoff homer to Ronald Acuna Jr. in the sixth but settled in and set down the final nine batters he faced. Box score

Angels 5, Astros 4 (10 innings)

Astros No. 27 prospect Blake Taylor struck out two in 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing one hit without issuing a walk. The southpaw has thrown six scoreless innings with seven strikeouts in four appearances this year. No. 23 Garrett Stubbs singled in the ninth in his only plate appearance, while third-ranked Abraham Toro went 0-for-5. Box score

Orioles 5, Rays 4 (11 innings)

Travis Lakins picked up the first win of his Major League career by tossing a perfect 11th inning. Kevin Kiermaier started the frame on second base, but Lakins whiffed Mike Zunino on a 3-2 cutter and got Manuel Margot to line into a double play. Box score

Cubs 4, Pirates 3

Top Cubs prospect Nico Hoerner made his sixth start at second base and went 0-for-2 with a pair of walks to bring his on-base percentage to .391. JT Brubaker tossed three innings of scoreless relief for Pittsburgh. The 26-year-old right-hander struck out three and allowed one hit and one walk. Miguel Del Pozo also pitched a scoreless frame, though the Pirates’ three-run ninth fell just short of completing the comeback. Box score

Dodgers 11, D-backs 2

Edwin Ríos was at it again for the Dodgers, going deep for the second time this year. LA’s No. 18 prospect faced Luke Weaver in the fourth and blasted a two-run dinger to center, putting the Dodgers ahead, 2-1. Fifth-ranked Brusdar Graterol and No. 16 Dennis Santana each pitched a scoreless inning and fanned one. Box score

A’s 3, Mariners 2

Another day, another hit for 10th-ranked Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis. The outfielder extended his streak to nine games with an infield single in the first inning. He reached base again in the third with a walk. Although his multi-hit games streak ended, Lewis is batting .444 for the season. No. 4 M's prospect Evan White walked in the ninth, while second-ranked A’s prospect Sean Murphy drew a free pass in three plate appearances. Box score

Giants 7, Rangers 3

Ninth-ranked Rangers prospect Joe Palumbo entered in the sixth with two on and one out. He issued a pair of free bases to force in a run but not before striking out Darin Ruf on three pitches. Giants left-hander Caleb Baragar picked up his second career win by fanning the only batter he faced. He froze Joey Gallo on a 3-2 heater to end the fifth. Box score

Joe Bloss is a contributor for Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss.