After a covid shortened rookie season and a sophomore season cut short due to injury, White Sox Outfielder Luis Robert is a potential dark horse in the 2022 MVP race.
Coming into the 2020 season, Luis Robert was the number one prospect in baseball and the front runner for AL rookie of the year for most of the season. While he ultimately lost the accolade to Seattle Mariners Kyle Lewis, Robert was still able to show that all the hype was very well deserved.
Flying Under The Radar In 2021:
After the weird 2020 which saw Robert start the year in the majors, have an incredible second month of the season (7 doubles, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 3 SB in 26 games) and then drastically fall off after that (0 doubles, 0 triples, 2 HR, 9 RBI the last 23 games), the hype on Robert had significantly cooled off.
What resulted in 2021 was a vastly better hitter with much improved plate discipline. Robert struck out 32.2% of the time in 2020 which is not a sustainable number for success at the major league level. That number dipped sharply to only 20.6% in 2021.
The main issue Robert had in 2021 was injuries. Due to said injuries, Robert only ended up playing in 68 games in 2021. Despite missing nearly 100 games, his production for the year was still incredible. In those 68 games Robert hit .338 with 22 doubles, 13 home runs, scored 42 runs and had 43 RBI. All of that lead to a 3.6 WAR which is the third most WAR in a season by a position player that’s played fewer than 70 games since 1900.
The advanced stats that lead to the success:
A deep dive into the Robert’s 2021 sabermetrics shows that it wasn’t luck or a fluke. The numbers he put up while healthy were not only sustainable, but repeatable.
Often times when writing these articles you find yourself looking hard to find one or two pieces of advanced stats data that could solidify someone as a potential breakout candidate. Robert is the rare type of player where almost all of the advanced stats data points to a breakout in 2022.
If you take his 2019 year in the minors as a bench mark of what could be entirely possible, Roberts upside is through the roof. He ended 2019 hitting .329 with 32 HR, 31 doubles, 11 triples, 92 RBI and 36 SB which is insane.
First things first, after coming back from his hip injury, Robert had a 173 WRC+ and a full season WRC+ of 157. Had he played enough games to qualify that would have been good enough for fourth in all of baseball ahead of guys like Fernando Tatis Jr, Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge.
Along with WRC+, Robert’s BABIP of .394 falls in line with what can be expected of someone with his speed. Fast players tend to have higher sustainable BABIP and though I feel he may fall closer to .370 this year that still puts him hitting around .315.
Part of his high BABIP is due to the fact that Robert just absolutely crushes the ball. For the season last year, he only made soft contact 13% of the time. His medium contact was 51.4% and hard contact was an impressive 35.6%. Much of that comes from his drastic increase in exit velocity from 2020 (87.9) to 2021 (91.1) as well as him barreling it up 12.5% of the time. Both of those numbers would put him in the top 30 hitters in baseball.
What that means for 2022:
After the injury plagued 2021, I’m fully prepared for Robert to have a healthy 2022. Partly because he says he’s at 100% entering spring training and partly because a fully healthy Luis Robert is fun for baseball. Especially in that stacked White Sox lineup.
Health allowing, a 30-30 season should be seen as the floor for Robert. While that may be a high floor, it’s completely justified. I’d expect .315, 37 HR, 100 runs, 90 RBI and 33 stolen bases which puts him in MVP category. If he can pick up where he left off last season, 2022 may go down as the season of Luis Robert.