Tim Anderson, an unfinished blur of a baseball player, the equivalent of a v8 Mustang darting through traffic on the Kennedy with no windshield and hardly any side paneling, made two plays Monday that made me wonder why I ever bothered tracking his stat line, or ever wondered about the long-term implications of his Double-A walk rate. Or wasted time doing anything but marvel.
The last several years have really enhanced our ability to scout the stat line. As much as we may have learned the perils of only scouting the stat line, it’s still a crutch to check in on top prospects that we largely only get to see in flashes and highlights. At this point, we know better that the fits and starts of progress from prospects like Anderson, who have been tabbed as exceptional by evaluators is more meaningful than Jason Coats OPSing 3.000 in Triple-A at age 26, but it’s a bit of an expression of faith in the system.
Or at least it is, until you see Tim Anderson.
U.S. Cellular Field has seen useless power tools before. Mike Olt sent a ball back to original manufacturer just last year, Joe Borchard famously breached 500 feet in his brief stint in the majors, and heck, Avisail Garcia and his handful of prodigious blasts yet sub-.350 slugging rate are still on the roster. These standout moments lack the thrilling context of watching Anderson for weeks, flashing quick hands in the field, spraying line drives and generally checking all the boxes for a promising, athletic shortstop prospect, and then just as easily launching this terrifying 424-foot bomb out to center, off a 91 mph fastball at the knees.
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) July 4, 2016
There’s no extra effort with this swing, no sudden lurch or switch in focus from contact to power. The jaw-dropping blast just comes naturally, as if it’s always there, waiting.
There are a lot of home runs hit everyday, though–especially during James Shields starts–but the specialness of that blast is that this came a few hours later.
Anderson runs like the monster chasing you in your nightmares. Large, comforting tracks of space between him and his destination disappear between turns of your head. He’s a third of the way up the baseline when the throw is coming into Brian McCann, and he slides in without a tag.
Speed without application can seem like the most useless tool in the sport at times, and the Sox have seen plenty of it. Last year had Micah Johnson running very fast but never at the right time or to the right place, and they’ve spent time dreaming of a world where Jerry Owens could actually hit the ball far enough to ever try for an extra base. Applied speed feels close to cheating, blurring the corners if not cutting them entirely.
Jose Abreu dropped a blooper that freezes baserunners and gets them thrown out on forceouts from the outfield, and Anderson read it and scored from second, which isn’t half as exciting as watching him do it, watching him zoom around a corner faster than other major leaguers can deal with.
Nothing about Anderson is as exciting as seeing him do it; the point he eventually settles in between his vast potential and his very real limitations, will likely never hold a candle to the thrill of the moments when the seas part for him, his pure ability carries the moment, and the world seems possible.
Lead Image Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski // USA Today Sports Images