Highly touted Cuban prospect is leaning heavily on Yoan Moncada during introduction to stateside baseball
We all acknowledged that Luis Robert was going to be the biggest story of the White Sox’ minicamp for hitters, so it stands to reason that we should see what’s actually coming of it.
Jose Abreu : Yoan Moncada :: Yoan Moncada : Luis Robert
Having just experienced the most jarring parts of the sudden shift from local Cuban pro to MLB prospect who’s incredibly wealthy and just as hyped, Moncada has taken it upon himself to show Robert the ropes.
How close are they? It would be easier to list out the elements of Robert’s transition to the United States that Moncada is not overseeing.
“He’s the one who is picking me up in the morning, driving me to the ballpark, guiding me through the complex, during the workout,” Robert said through Russo. “If we have to hit, or if we have to go to the gym, or if we have to eat breakfast, he’s the one who is telling me what we have to do. When we’re driving, he’s always talking to me about things that I need to learn and I need to do during this experience here in the U.S. and during the season, my first one. Absolutely I’m just excited to ask them, not just Yoan but also Abreu for advice and just grasp whatever they have for me.”
Hey, they go back a long way:
Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada have been friends since their teens years in Cuba. White Sox first basemen Jose Abreu, who is also from Cuba, was among the many to help Moncada adjust to life in the US. Moncada is doing the same for Robert. #WhiteSox pic.twitter.com/lUtohrTP77
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) January 16, 2018
James Fegan notes similarities between the two beyond their common homeland, like selfie-centered Instagram accounts belying a reticence that’s a natural byproduct of needing everything in a new country translated. One thing that might make Robert’s transition a little easier than the others? His parents and sister joined him in the Dominican Republic.
The talent is evident
Eric Longenhagen hung out at the White Sox’ minicamp on Tuesday, and Josh asked him about what he saw:
Josh Nelson: Saw your tweet from the White Sox hitters camp. Who impresses you the most from that group?
Eric A Longenhagen: It was Robert and it wasn’t close. Hit balls out to all fields during BP, more raw pop than anyone else taking BP on that field including Burger and Sheets
That looks like the lone third-party observation of Robert so far, and it lines up with the way various White Sox personnel have reacted. Winston-Salem hitting coach Charlie Poe — who might be working with Robert come April — came away impressed by Robert’s abilities. Allen Thomas, the White Sox’ strength and conditioning coordinator, might not need to work with him ever (“He’s chiseled.”)
Then there’s Robert’s peers. Zack Collins called Robert’s swing “pretty great,” and Yeyson Yrizarri provided the commentary for his batting practice:
More loud sounds from Robert. He says he still hasn’t gotten the rhythm he had at the plate back in Serie Nacional yet. pic.twitter.com/MN3OTkRItE
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) January 16, 2018
He faces an uphill battle with his surname
During his introductory press conference, Robert said that he and everybody in Cuba pronounces his last name without the last letter, as in “Robber,” but acknowledged the predominant pronunciation outside the country brings the “t” back in (and I’m guilty of that).
This might end up being an Alexei Ramirez situation — everybody said Alex-ee, he said Alice-Say — because his closest reps aren’t helping.
Talked with #WhiteSox Luis Robert's uncle and agent today. Very nice men, gave the final word on his last name:
"Robert": with a hard-t, just like it's spelled.@billazbbphotog and I – both persnickety about things like correct pronunciation – both satisfied with the result
— Kim C (@Cu_As) January 17, 2018
The other big part of minicamp
Besides Robert’s landing, health updates are the most valuable part of the spring training sneak preview.
With Charlie Tilson experiencing no setbacks — yet — from regular action during the second half of the Arizona Fall League, Ryan Cordell took over as the organization’s biggest mystery man in terms of his availability. He’s feasibly a candidate for a fourth outfielder/utility job at some point in the 2018 season, but back problems kept him from ever playing in 2017 after the White Sox acquired him from Milwaukee for Anthony Swarzak.
We should see more of him, even if that’s not saying much.
Ryan Cordell has been back to full activity since Dec. 1. Suffered a minor fracture to his T1 vertebrae but says every doctor he spoke to projected no issues going forward. He’s happy to get an early start to the season after a long layoff
— James Fegan (@JRFegan) January 17, 2018
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