It’s hard to believe that just three months ago, White Sox rookie shortstop Tim Anderson’s name was just a blip on the radar of every White Sox fan’s mind. A piece of the future that was near, but they weren’t sure how near.
But now it’s hard to remember a time before Anderson. Tyler Saladino managed to hold the fort down while the White Sox patiently awaited the arrival of Anderson, which came on a home game against the Kansas City Royals on June 10. It was a Friday night, Chris Sale was pitching, and Anderson started off his major league career with a bang, hitting a double off of Royals pitcher Ian Kennedy during his first major league at-bat. The brightest piece of the White Sox’s future was here.
During that moment, in which the crowd at U.S. Cellular Field reveled in the immediate, almost symbolic success their new starting shortstop had displayed, the hope for the White Sox’s future was shining as bright as it had in quite some time.
But as a swing-prone rookie, who was notorious for virtually never taking walks in the minors, arriving in the big leagues for the first time offers up some questions about that bright future. The major league adjustment period is quite real, and the ability to cut down on strikeouts and take walks is key for the success of any batter breaking into the big leagues and what you see in Triple-A often doesn’t translate with as much grace to the major league stage.
But translate with grace Anderson did. The numbers that the young 23-year-old is posting among shortstops in baseball may not all be in the top-ten rankings, but given the context of his profile, and his rookie status, the White Sox could not have asked for a much smoother transition. In a season that has turned exceptionally ugly, Anderson provides a bright light to remind White Sox fans that perhaps there is still hope after the 2016 season ends.
Take a look at where Anderson ranks among American League shortstops (min. 250 PA) in these categories:
Note that there were only 18 qualified players in this query, so Anderson owns the highest strikeout rate among AL shortstops, as well as the lowest walk rate.
But despite the ugly strikeout and walk rates, Anderson is still holding his own, and without context, a slash line of .276/.296/.429 isn’t horrific — especially given the nuances of Anderson. So what does that indicate? It means when Anderson is making contact on the ball, he’s making meaningful contact, and with an improvement in his strikeout rate and walk rates, these numbers are only going to get better if he keeps it up. Having a .296 OBP when you’re striking out in over a quarter of your plate appearances and have only walked seven times in over 250 trips to the dish is really quite impressive when you think about it.
Anderson has already worked to improve on his plate approach in the second half, and a whopping five of the seven walks that he has taken since his debut just over two months ago, have come in August.
Something that is often left out of the equation when thinking about big league hitters making their debuts is that they’re facing an entirely new crop of talent for the first time, and one that is major league caliber at that. The adjustment to that simple fact alone is something that needs to be taken into consideration during these first few crucial months of a rookie’s career.
“You’re seeing the pitchers more than once. You kind of figure them out and know what they’re going to do to you and kind of know how they’re going to pitch you in an at-bat, certain pitches. It’s really good, really helpful.” Anderson said of slowly seeing pitchers for the second time around.
One of the most important things a rookie can implement to further his success is his mindset and his game plan, something that Anderson’s calm and cool demeanor and ability to understand how to handle the road ahead had certainly aided him in.
“I have more of a plan now and I’ve been laying off a lot of pitches and getting a good pitch to hit and being patient.” Anderson said during the White Sox’s trip to Cleveland.
Anderson may not be wreaking havoc on leaderboards across baseball during his first season in the majors, but the signs of a strong and solid future are there. Anderson’s speed makes him an absolute asset on the basepaths, not to mention defensively at shortstop–we’ve already seen some incredible defensive efforts by Anderson this season–as well as his ability to understand that his plate approach needs refining, and to work hard on improving.
Anderson is looking like the most legitimate prospect to come through the White Sox minor league system in quite some time, and that alone should give fans some hope.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports