MLB: Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians

Anderson’s Future in the Spotlight is Now

Tim Anderson is not a hero. He’s not a savior. He’s simply a 22-year-old shortstop that found himself receiving his first call-up to the major leagues during a turbulent time for an organization. The haze of desperation currently covering the White Sox will distort the image of any aid it receives from its possible shortstop of the future.

To some that are not as well-versed in existential ebb and flow of the major league adjustment period, Anderson already looks as if he could be the closest thing to a savior that has happened to the White Sox since the pre-season hopes that Todd Frazier and Brett Lawrie would break the curse of middle infield mediocrity. Anderson has come to the majors with a big bang, but it will be loud and quick before eventually returning to the slow hum of a well-oiled machine. That’s baseball, and sometimes it makes your heart race, but just for a little while.

The honeymoon phase is never long for newcomers arriving in The Show. Underneath Anderson’s hot start is a .393 BABIP, and buried under the thrill of games like when Anderson belts two doubles against Detroit, there are flaws. Those flaws come in typical rookie fashion — a currently non-existent walk rate, an alarming propensity for strikeouts (27.5 percent strikeout rate) and more specifically, the lack of a strong ability to exploit the speed he possesses at the top of the order due to meager on-base skills (.273 OBP, .217 TAv).

These are growing pains, they’re not makeup issues. The core of Anderson’s troubles with walks and strikeouts are simply the by-product of an overly aggressive plate approach and inability to lay off the high fastballs and low breaking balls (more specifically low and away for Anderson). While the lack of raw power Anderson is displaying may make us impatient, it’s currently being subdued by the speed that he possesses, allowing him to to turn another man’s single into a fluid double.

Where Anderson chooses to go from here, his desire to improve, and his ability to apply himself at the major league level will be what defines what he becomes to baseball, to this organization, and to those watching him.

Even this early in the process, it seems as though Anderson is willing not only to put in the work that it takes to reach his potential, but that he’s willing to ask the questions that he needs to in order to get there. “He asks a lot of good questions,” third base coach Joe McEwing told the media in Cleveland. “For somebody that young to be that bright, to not be scared to ask those questions is pretty impressive.”

“He’s a very driven individual and he wants to be the best.”

That drive and determination will be what separates Anderson from other rookies with nearly a 30 percent K-rate, who also regularly struggle with an overly aggressive plate approach and the inability hit breaking pitches well less than two weeks into their career. You’re the same until you make yourself different.

Having been a basketball player most of his youth and not picking up a baseball with any sort of permanence until junior year of high school, the question of whether or not Anderson’s actions are refined enough to stick at shortstop has lingered since his early days as a prospect. Anderson’s range, speed, and glove seem to make him a prime candidate for center field if he cannot stick at short.

With Austin Jackson is on the disabled list, the White Sox should ask themselves if they’re willing to afford Anderson the opportunity to man center field at this seemingly opportune moment. Jackson’s injury has left the Sox with no suitable option but to move Eaton (whose glove it was revealed plays much better in right) back to center field to fill the hole Jackson left.

The situation that the White Sox are currently facing becomes more clear with every poor in-game bullpen choice, every Todd Frazier strikeout, and every run James Shields gives up before the 10,000 loyal fans at U.S Cellular Field’s beers begin to warm in the 90 degree heat: it’s already just over a month until the trade deadline and the White Sox are in fourth place in the division.

It could be time to experiment with Anderson. Work with him. Let him work out his troubles at the plate. Try new things. Lay off a few pitches for the sake of his walk rate, but also to let pitchers come to him. Try his glove out in center field. Let him find what feels good.

The White Sox will have two options for Anderson at the end of the season. They can hang on to him deciding that he’s on track to improve at a rate that will help this organization in the future, and let him prove that he can be what all the scouting reports say he has the potential to be. Or, they can decide that he’s worth more on the trade block than he is on the green grass at U.S Cellular Field in 2017, and start over with a new crop of fresh youth. But the way the rest of Anderson’s season plays out, whether it be in the majors or with a few journeys back to Charlotte, will help shape the answer to the question of whether or not they should retain a player who is currently regarded as one of the best prospects not just in their organization, but in baseball. Anderson is 22, he has a ton of upside, and is just getting started.

At SoxFest, when the legitimate buzz of a bright future lingered throughout the halls of the Hilton Hotel, the few times that Rick Hahn touched on the topic of 2016 not working out and mentioned the idea of a rebuild being on the table sounded like one of those “maybe’s” in life that you knew was never going to become a reality. What do you mean if this doesn’t work?

This time it really seemed like it would, and Sox fans never want to think about the fact that a rebuild would mean that wearing their Chris Sale jersey to the ballpark in 2017 would become paying homage to an era gone by. But it’s looking more like the reality of that “maybe” is something that Sox fans need to brace themselves for.

The Sox are again reaching crossroads of ‘all in’ and ‘starting all over,’ and what Anderson does with the remainder of his 2016 will help shape what role he will play in the White Sox’s future. If a youth movement is coming, I want to hope that Anderson will be a strong part of it.


Lead photo courtesy of Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

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