The Runner Sports

Luis Robert MLB Comp: Astros’ 1970s Star CF, César Cedeño

It starts with the build…the physical presence. Cuban phenom, Luis Robert stands 6’2″ and 174 pounds, and at 19, he’s almost certain to gain some body mass before he hits his eventual major league team’s home park (some media outlets have quoted his current dimensions as 6’3″, 185 already).

When native Dominican César Cedeño made his MLB debut in 1970 as a 19-year-old center fielder with the Houston Astros, his 6’2″ height was complemented by a 175-pound scale reading. By the time he played his last game for the Dodgers in 1986, those same scales read 195.

Truth to Power

The second thing to notice is the imposing construction of both players’ otherwise “normal” right-handed baseball bodies. Robert and Cedeño (in his prime) have what seem to be steel bands for muscles, held together by tightly-wound, spring-loaded rubber bands, with BMIs that are likely around 22, if not lower. For both, this means a vicious bat speed generated by Hank Aaron-like wrist strength, and Roberto Clemente-like wall-reaching power to both alleys and beyond.

Cedeño spent 12 years with the Astros (1970-1981), before spending 3 1/2 years in Cincinnati, and a year-and-a-half in Los Angeles, compiling a lifetime .285 BA, with 199 home runs.

For the Astros, though, Cedeño (whom many, at the time, called the next Willie Mays) became the franchise’s first real offensive superstar, logging a .289 batting average in his dozen years in Houston, a .351 OBP, with an .805 OPS. He hit 163 homers wearing the orange rainbow, with most of those bombs hit into the dry, static atmosphere of the Astrodome, long before they brought the walls in.

He stole 487 bases in 636 attempts (77%), leading the National League in SB % with 92% in 1978. His offensive WAR of 7.6 ranked 2nd in the NL in 1972.

Video: Watch Cedeño steal home in July 1977.

Cedeño was a five-time NL Gold Glove winner for his center field play, and was a National League All-Star in 1972, ’73, ’74, and ’76.

He hit for the cycle twice in his career, and was the second player in MLB history (after the Cardinals’ Lou Brock) to hit 20-plus homers and steal 50-plus bases in a season, blasting 22 homers and stealing 55 bases in 1972, and 25 homers and 56 stolen bases in 1973.

Cedeño, now 66, is currently the hitting coach at Houston’s rookie affiliate, The Greenville (TN) Astros.

To the Highest Bidder

International free agent Luis Robert has spent just over three years with Tigres de Ciego de Avila in the Cuban National Series, with some of 2016 also spent with the traveling Cuban National Team of the Canadian-American Association.

Robert signed with the Chicago White Sox on May 20. He’ll reportedly receive a signing bonus of between $25- and $30 million.

Since Robert is subject to international bonus pools, the White Sox had to far exceed their pool limit ($2.973MM) to make the signing, according to MLB Trade Rumors.  Since every dollar spent over the pool limit comes at a 100% luxury tax, the Sox will actually pay in the $50-$60MM range to sign Robert, between both his bonus and the overage tax.

Related: Cuban OF Luis Robert: Could Astros Land “Best Player On Planet”? (Includes information on the international signing period, which teams are in the penalty, etc.)

Not counting the 16 games he played with the Cuban National Team last year, Robert slashed .401/.526/.687 with 12 homers, 12 doubles, a pair of triples, 40 RBIs, and 11 steals (out of 17 attempts, 65%) over his 53 games (232 plate appearances) in his final pro season in the Cuban National Series.

Video: Watch game footage of Luis Robert from late March 2017

Finally, it’s Luis Robert’s  rare and compelling combination of raw power, gap power, and speed that not only reminds some of Cedeño, but will make the upcoming rise of Robert in Chicago’s system fun to watch.

Related: Astros in 2017: The Power of Fellow Cuban Yulieski Gurriel, and RHP Rogelio Armenteros, the Cuban Rocket

NEW: Marwin Gonzalez: The Nuts’n’Bolts of The Big Orange Machine

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle