In a season during which every monumental moment that occurred seemed to bring a new level of catastrophe to the lives of White Sox fans, a reprieve was offered in the form of a 23-year-old shortstop from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Tim Anderson made his highly anticipated major league debut on June 10, sandwiched between a flurry of moves made across roughly 72 hours that included the directly corresponding one — Jimmy Rollins being designated for assignment. The dawn of a new era was at hand
As White Sox fans gathered at U.S. Cellular Field on that evening, Anderson started off his career tugging at baseball’s heartstrings with a loud double off Royals starter Ian Kennedy. Of course, being haunted by the shortcomings of the White Sox prospects of past, the apprehension was high, and the expectations were rather low. At least they were for me.
But in 99 games and 431 plate appearances, Anderson didn’t disappoint. He even went as far as to impress, finishing the season with a slash line of .283/.306/.432, a 27 percent strikeout rate and a 3 percent walk rate. The latter two numbers sound rather dismal, but given the profile that Anderson brought with him, the final product of his slash line is more than laudable for a strikeout-prone White Sox prospect’s first 99 games in the big leagues.
It was well-known that Anderson would bring speed and pop with him to the major leagues, but along with those tools came that high strikeout rate, the inability to take a free base, and the uncertainty of his future as a shortstop.
In his first month, the strikeouts were significantly high — a whopping 31.8 percent, while the walks were low, just 1.1 percent. But oh, the power! Anderson put up a .512 slugging percentage in his first 19 games in the big leagues. Over the course of the season, he would hit nine home runs, four of which traveled 426 feet or farther, and four leaving the bat at 106 mph or faster. Anderson wasn’t simply holding his own in his first season in the majors, he was making baseball on the South Side joyful again.
Anderson kept the strikeout rate below 30 percent for the remainder of the season, which sounds as though it’s not praise-worthy for any other profile, but for Anderson it was an encouraging small step in the right direction. He even reached a walk rate of nearly 5 percent in September, and while his peripheral stats at the plate suggested a grim future for the shortstop, the slash line was hearty enough to suggest that when he was making contact at the plate, it was strong enough contact to merit optimism that future success is just a few walks and a couple of check swings away.
Anderson’s defense in the field was yet another aspect of his game that made baseball fun again. Going as far as to draw very deserving young Derek Jeter comps at some points, FRAA wasn’t a fan of all that met the eye, giving Anderson a -4.4 on the season. But he still showed plenty of promise, the eye test was approving, and for a player who just before the season started was still having his ability to stick at shortstop questioned, credit should be given where credit is very much due.
Anderson may not have had the perfect season, but all things considered, all context taken into account, and especially the franchise he’s a part of, he is one of the most solid and legitimate success stories the White Sox saw in 2016. Anderson is likely to only get better in 2017, continuing to smooth out the rough edges he has, but after just over 400 plate appearances in the majors, Anderson has made adjusting to big leagues look like no sweat.
Photo courtesy of Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports