White Sox prospect Luis Robert reaching for the stars

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Ask Luis Robert if he wants to be a star, and he doesn’t hesitate.

“Yes,” he said Saturday during a break after an autograph session and lunch at SoxFest.

“That was why I left Cuba. To be a star, one of the biggest in the world.’’

With Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease, Robert rounds out the White Sox’ Mount Rushmore of prospects. They give hope to a rebuild that promises better days for a franchise coming off 100 losses in 2018, its 10th year in a row without a postseason.

The Sox paid Robert $26 million in international bonus cash in 2017 to pry the fleet 6-3 center fielder from Cuba, the kind of price you pay for a future star. He is paying a bigger price to reach his goal than he expected, though, unable to see or hold his infant daughter, who’s in the Dominican Republic with her mother. And he has struggled with getting acclimated to the culture, language and everyday living in the United States.

It can be a lonely existence.

“It has been a very difficult, tough process,’’ said Robert, who has a home in Tampa, Florida. “It’s a tough adjustment because I’m here alone. I miss my family in Cuba. The language is a barrier, and, for me, it’s tough to learn. Moving around, going to different places — normal things —can be tough. I’m starting to feel at home, but it’s not easy.’’

Adding to Robert’s struggles was a series of injuries — ankle, knee and thumb — that slowed his development and earned him an “injury prone” question he doesn’t want. Limited to 50 games between Rookie League ball and two Class A levels in 2018, Robert says he’s not chalking them up to bad luck or pushing himself too soon.

“It’s not something people should be concerned about,’’ he said.

But he knows he has to prove he can stay on the field.

“To be a star, I just need to be healthy,’’ he said.

The Sox sent him to the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time, and he flourished there, batting .324/.367/.432 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 18 games after hitting .269/.333/.360 with no homers and 11 RBI in the summer.

“I wasn’t happy; I was down,’’ he said. “But to perform as I did in the fall league around a lot of the best prospects in baseball was a boost for my confidence, just to reinforce that I can do it.’’

Robert, 21, has the tools to be that star he dreams of being. As director of player development Chris Getz says, “Just watching him warm up excites you.’’


• White Sox’ GM will have ready response for ‘cheapness’ question

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In fact, with speed, athleticism and raw power, Robert has more well-rounded skills than Jimenez, an elite, polished hitting prospect who likely will patrol left field for most of this coming season for the Sox. Jimenez is third in MLB Pipeline’s prospect rankings, and Robert is 40th.

Robert wants to play in the majors this season, but 2020 is a more realistic goal.

“With the talent I have, I can reach the level I want to reach,’’ he said. “But right now, I have to learn to make the most of the talent, learn how to play the game here in the U.S. You need to be smarter and manage different situations. It takes experience.’’

And perhaps patience, as Jimenez — who will finally debut in April — found out.

“He did all he needed to do to be in the majors,’’ Robert said. “That’s something we can’t control. In my case, I’ll do everything I can to get there as soon as I can.’’

And get on with being a star. That’s the plan, anyway.

“That is my goal,’’ he said.

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