White Sox execs thrilled to add Robert

White Sox execs thrilled to add Robert

CHICAGO -- White Sox executive vice president Ken Williams had an interesting reaction to Luis Robert when watching him take batting practice with general manager Rick Hahn during a recent workout in the Dominican Republic.

"First round of batting practice, I go 'Hmmmm,'" said a smiling Williams while recounting the story after Saturday morning's news conference at Guaranteed Rate Field to announce the signing of the free-agent Cuban outfielder to a Minor League contract with a $26 million signing bonus.

"I get a couple of different angles, then I walk back over to Rick, and I said, 'Listen, I'm struggling,'" Williams continued. "And I could see the look on Rick's face like, 'Oh, no. You don't like him.' I said, 'What I'm struggling with is, it's hard for me to recall in my mind a more sound, prettier right-handed swing. I'm wracking my brain here trying to come up with another name.'

"He's got a right-handed swing that you see more in left-handed hitters."

That point of high praise stood as one of many for the 19-year-old, who will begin his White Sox tenure as part of the Dominican Summer League team. Williams did not put a 100-percent scouting grade on Robert, as he did previously with Cuban countryman Jose Abreu. But Williams quickly pointed out that grade shouldn't be misconstrued as him not having similar faith in Robert's talent.

"Not at all," Williams said. "I still think there's a high ... probability of him becoming all that we think he can become. But I just assume, let it happen and not put it out there for him.

"In terms of being able to break it down on video to the degree we were able to break down Abreu and the maturity Abreu had when he came out, was a little different. And they are different kinds of ballplayers."

Marco Paddy, who has done wonders returning the White Sox to international-market prominence, has been following Robert since seeing him in an Under-15 international tournament in Mexico as a 14-year-old talent. When asked on Saturday to come up with a comparison for Robert, Paddy chose Vladimir Guerrero.

When asked how it felt to have both Yoan Moncada and Robert as part of organization, Paddy termed it "Christmas in May" for the White Sox.

"There's still a lot of work that needs to be done," Paddy said. "But it's a dream come true, to be honest with you, having those guys with that kind of ability together."

"Luis Robert is going to be the player that his tools allow him to become and his health and development pace dictates," Hahn said. "We do think he has the potential to be a perennial impact player in the middle of our diamond and lineup for years to come. That's an important piece to be able to add to the organization."

Scott Merkin has covered the White Sox for MLB.com since 2003. Read his blog, Merk's Works, follow him on Twitter @scottmerkin, on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.