GLENDALE, Ariz. — For all of the buzz surrounding top prospect Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert might have created an even bigger stir during the six Cactus League games he appeared in and as he continued on the minor-league side of White Sox camp.
Sox player development personnel as well as scouts from around the league are impressed with the 6-2, 210-pounder’s speed and power and have seen signs of improving plate discipline. One National League pro scout, when the subject of Jimenez came up, immediately changed the topic to Robert.
“I like him better,” the scout said. “He’s a better athlete with a very good approach at the plate.”
While Jimenez is, at best, an average defender whose future might ultimately reside at designated hitter, Robert, 21, plays center field. He was 5-for-13 with a go-ahead home run in the ninth inning, two triples, a double and eight RBI in the Cactus League. He has continued to perform well on the minor-league side, director of player development Chris Getz said.
There was speculation that Robert could begin the season at Class AA Birmingham, but Getz said he will report to advanced Class A Winston-Salem, where he played only 32 games and would benefit from more time there.
It stands to reason he’ll get to Birmingham this season before long and could see major-league time by 2020 as long as he stays healthy — which has been a challenge since the Sox signed him to a $26 million bonus (and paid a $26 million tax for exceeding the international bonus limit) in 2017.
“His talent level is off the charts,” hitting coach Todd Steverson said.
Jimenez, who signed a $43 million contract Saturday, is ranked No. 3 among prospects by MLB Pipeline. Robert is 40th.
Jay still out
While catcher Welington Castillo (sore lower back) returned to game action, Jon Jay didn’t play for a 10th consecutive day. But manager Rick Renteria said he “would be surprised like everyone else” if the 34-year-old outfielder isn’t on the Opening Day roster.
“Right now, he looks really good,” Renteria said. “Jay has actually been really, really active. Strength-and-conditioning coordinator Allen Thomas says he looks really good. We’re not concerned about it.’’
Nicky Delmonico was optioned to Class AAA Charlotte, leaving 35 players in camp. The Sox released Brandon Guyer on Friday and have Jay, Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and Leury Garcia, all of whom could make the team, as well as Jimenez for the outfield. A .215/.296/.373 hitter last season, Delmonico had his work cut out to make the team. He recovered from the concussion he suffered after running into the fence in left field and hit .261 this spring.
Garcia, who’s leading the Cactus League with a .438 average, has eight hits in his last 11 at-bats.
Renteria said his team (9-17-2), despite posting the worst record among Cactus League teams, is ready to be held accountable when the games matter.
“I asked all the players today if they were ready,’’ Renteria said. “And I am not going to use the expletives they were using, but they’re ready to go. They’re all ready to get out of spring training and get the lights on. Let’s start playing the games and show them what we’re capable of.”