One of the more intriguing international prospects in the 2016-2017 pool is 19-year old Cuban Luis Robert, who plays first base and has received interest from the Cincinnati Reds, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics and San Diego Padres. However, the leading chasers at the moment seem to be the St. Louis Cardinals and Chicago White Sox.
It’s not all that surprising – both the overall interest in Robert, who will be available to sign a deal starting from this weekend, and the Cards and White Sox leading the way in the race to ink him. The Cardinals have lost draft picks due to their database breach against the Astros and for the signing of Dexter Fowler, leaving them with quite a lot of money to spend on international talent. The White Sox have yet to exceed their 2016-2017 international pool, and are focused on obtaining high-upside young talent that doesn’t take a whole lot of developing to get to major league level. Robert is older than most Cuban prospects, and especially the ones that will start coming in if the USA and Cuba improve their relations, but he’s also projected to be very close to playing major league baseball soon enough.
Robert has played for Ciego de Avila since 2013, and had a very impressive season last year, batting .401 while hitting 12 home runs in 53 games (232 plate appearances) while posting an OPS of 1.213. He was less impressive during his time with Team Cuba in the Canadian-American association, but it’s hard to ignore his impressive ability to connect with the ball. Despite playing first base, he’s likely to be an outfielder in major league baseball, at least in the beginning. He’s athletic enough to start his career at center field. Whether he’ll stay there isn’t certain, but with the kind of bat power he’s showing, it might not matter where he’s positioned.