Robert shows he can have Juan Soto-style impact on Sox


Luis Robert has convinced Hall of Famers that he's a "six-tool player."

Whether he lives up to Eloy Jiménez's prediction that he's "the next Mike Trout" or not, though, Robert has shown another one of his fellow outfielders that he's got what it takes to be one of the game's brightest stars.

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"He learns every day, comes to the ballpark trying to learn and tries to get better," White Sox right fielder Adam Eaton said Tuesday. "With all his attributes and skills, he reminds me a lot of (Washington Nationals star) Juan Soto. Juan was very talented, but every day tries to pick something up and be better. Luis is no different.

"He comes to play and learn every day and, with his skills and ability to pick things up quickly, will make a very good player in this league for a long time. Both of those guys have parallel attributes and not just on the field. What really makes superstars in this league is the mental grind and being ready to learn every day and evolve. That has really impressed me."

Eaton played with Soto in Washington, of course, the duo winning a World Series championship together in 2019.

Soto has been incredibly productive in the early stages of his big league career, twice finishing in the top 10 in National League MVP voting. He was jaw-droppingly terrific during the shortened 2020 campaign, leading the NL with a .351 batting average and leading baseball with a .490 on-base percentage, a .695 slugging percentage and a 1.185 OPS.

Robert, like Soto before him, finished the runner-up in Rookie of the Year voting last year. He started strong, with a productive first month of the season in which he put all of his tools on display. He spent the second month of the shortened season mired in a woeful slump. But he ended his rookie campaign with a bang, smacking a 487-foot home run in the playoffs to remind everyone just how talented he is.

Robert has started his second season in the majors well and has particularly turned things on of late. He entered Tuesday's game in Cleveland leading the game with seven doubles and slashing .284/.329/.463. He's got nine hits in his last 23 at-bats, four of them going for extra bases.

What's been the key?

"Robert is starting to understand that there are hits on the right side of the field, that he doesn’t want to strike out," White Sox hitting coach Frank Menechino said last weekend. "He’s realizing that hits are OK. I've got to yell at him and say, ‘Hey, it’s a base hit! It’s good! Hey, it’s a walk! It’s good!' ... Put the ball in play, and that’s the mentality he’s had. ... When he tries to do too much, swing and a miss. So cutting down his swing and taking his base hits is helping him right now."

"He’s been looking really good," White Sox second baseman Nick Madrigal said. "As of late, he’s been shooting the ball to right field. It seems like early on when I played with him, he was trying to hit the moonshot — and a lot of times he did. But it looks like he’s starting to take the base hits when they give it to him. ... I think it’s a huge step for him."

While Soto — a year younger than Robert, by the way — is already the most dangerous hitter in the Nationals' lineup, Robert is still finding his way in the big leagues. He's got some big bats around him, most notably reigning American League MVP José Abreu. White Sox manager Tony La Russa has actually lamented having to bat Robert lower in the order on certain days due to the presence of those established hitters.

But in a hot stretch like this, it's easy to see how Robert could have that Soto-like ability to carry a lineup all by himself. And with Gold Glove defense to go along with it, it might not be long before Robert is viewed as the top player on a loaded White Sox roster.

"I think he’s shown that," Eaton said. "When he’s up, it seems like he gets it done, and on defense, he puts us on his back, making sure he throws to right base, does the job that’s needed at the time. I think he’s shown that."

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