Those in tune with the prospects coming through the ranks had to have been salivating over Chicago’s Luis Robert . In 103 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2019, Robert hit 24 home runs, stole 28 bases and hit a whopping .306. His walk rate was uninspiring around five percent, and his strikeout rate hovered around 23ish percent. Well, in his first big league action we saw some of the same stuff from Robert. Across 56 games, he hit 11 home runs, went 9-for-11 in stolen base attempts and posted a respectable 8.8 percent walk rate. However, we also saw some shortcomings and holes in his game. His measly .233 batting average is a starting point, but the real number here is 32.2. That, my friends, was his strikeout rate last season. THIRTY TWO POINT TWO PERCENT. Yikes.
I was going to start with the good things, but after typing in all caps, I’d be remiss if I didn’t get right into it. The strike outs were a big issue for Robert in 2020. Of course, there is going to be an adjustment period, so hopefully that mark comes down a bit in 2021. However, I wouldn’t expect something close to 20 percent by any means. While gradually he can improve, he profiles to have a strikeout rate likely between 28-30 percent. Again, looking back at 2020…
- Robert’s O-Swing rate of 43.1 percent is atrocious, and was fourth-worst amongst qualified hitters last season.
- Robert’s 61.4 percent contact rate is putrid, and was the third-worst amongst qualified hitters last season.
- Robert’s insane swinging strike rate of 22.1 percent is garbage, and was the worst in all of baseball by almost two full percentage points!
Robert’s strikeout issues persisted for the majority of the season, but spiked at the end. In 105 plate appearances in August he struck out 32 times. He also struck out 32 times in the final 23 games of the year, spanning 94 plate appearances. His final 23 games of the year featured an asinine 34 percent strikeout rate. To his credit, in terms of whiffs, he was relatively consistent, but unfortunately, it was consistently bad.
Robert’s season featured his numbers slowly dipped as the year went on. Take a look at some of his breakdowns here, but especially the last one. The last one is alarming, and boy oh boy, the overall trend of his average exit velocity over the year is far from ideal.
He hit .296 and .298 in the first months of the year, but over the final stretch, he hit just .136 and his hard contact rate dropped to 18 percent. When Robert makes contact, it’s typically solid contact and makes him one of the most exciting young players in baseball. However, the 6th percentile strikeout rate from last year, paired with a whiff rate in the second percentile, indicates some holes in his offensive approach. He’s just 23-years-old, so of course there’s time to mature at the plate as a major league hitter. He can do it, but it’s going to be a gradual improvement, so temper expectations in the strikeout department in 2021.
Chicago will let him run and throughout his minor league career, he’s been solid. Between Double- and Triple-A, Robert has a success rate of 75.7 percent (29-for-37), and his 96th percentile sprint speed helped him go 9-for-11 in his first taste of the bigs. His upside in the stolen base department makes it so hard to pass on him in the third round of 15-team formats. Well, his speed and other reasons, too.
Robert is as toolsy as they come, and while he may strike out more than we’d like, it didn’t slow him down too much in fantasy. Yes, his batting average stunk and hurt fantasy owners, but if you’re like me, the positives of his 11 home runs and nine stolen bases far outweigh the damage his .233 batting average caused to my team. In 2021, it very well could be a similar story. He may hit .235-.240, but who cares if he gives you 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases? I know I won’t. I’ll gladly take that trade-off.
Using THE BAT projections, courtesy of Derek Carty, we see that Robert is one of 20 players projected for at least 20 stolen bases in 2021. Furthermore, he’s one of just eight projected with at least 27 home runs and 20 stolen bases, and only one of these eight (Byron “MVP” Buxton) is going later in drafts than Robert.
He’s going to be a trendy pick in drafts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his ADP starts creeping into the very early third round, or perhaps even late second by March drafts. He may be a bit of a liability in the batting average department in 2021 due to his elevated strikeout rate, but don’t let that scare you away from a potential 30/20 club member.