MLB: Chicago White Sox at Detroit Tigers

South Side Morning 5: Tim Anderson is struggling, but it’s not panic time yet

1. Tim Anderson’s struggles have gotten to the point of being well documented, if not worrisome. He’s now accumulated about one quarter of the plate appearances he had during his rookie season, and has acknowledged the fact that he’s not performing up to his standards.

“This year has been one of the toughest times of my career,” Anderson said. “It’s hard to stay up when you’re struggling. I’ve been sticking with it. I’m learning a lot more than I have been throughout my career because every stop that I’ve made I’ve dominated and kept going. It’s kind of like I hit a wall real quick and I’m learning more and studying more and now it’s time to break the game down and learn a lot more about it.”

Anderson has always seemed like a different breed of White Sox hitting prospect, and probably still is. Despite his struggles, he’s shown glimpses of the athleticism and the hit tool he displayed for the majority of 2016 this year, and the season is still young enough that we haven’t reached full blown panic mode just yet. But given the hitting prospects who have come, disappointed, and gone, it’s hard not to worry.

The good news is that there’s nothing about his performance that screams of much more than a slump.  He’s still striking out a lot (25 percent), but actually slightly less often than a year ago. He’s also not walking much (2.5 percent), but an indiscernible amount from last year (3 percent). His chase and contract rates are virtually identical. The only major differences are that his line drive rate is down (14.1 percent from 20.8 percent), and his fly ball rate is up (38.8 percent from 24.9 percent). Likewise, his hard hit rate (27.9 percent) is down about five percent from a year ago while his soft contact rate is up eight percent.

OK, that’s a lot of numbers. But what can they would seem to suggest is that Anderson’s timing is off. Couple that with his defensive lapses, and the struggles seem more mental than anything, which can hopefully be corrected sooner than later, less for the sake of the team’s on-field success than for his development and future prospects, as well as our collective sanity.

2. The White Sox wrapped up the month of April on a six-game winning streak, reaching a season-high four games over .500 at 13-9, before promptly losing seven of nine, the latest of which put the White Sox one game under .500, a 7-2 loss to old friend Hector Santiago and the Twins Tuesday in the first game of a six-game home stand.

These facts are relevant in so much as we’ve been tasked, for better or worse, with covering the day-to-day of this White Sox season. There are going to be plenty of embarrassing losses, and you can only learn so much from a Mike Pelfrey start or Cody Asche plate appearances. But there are still plenty of happenings relevant to both the present and future of the White Sox.

3. The Luis Robert sweepstakes is in the home stretch as we’re 10 days away from the 19-year-old Cuban outfielder being able to sign with a major league team. Ben Badler reported Monday that the White Sox were among a handful of teams who held private workouts with Robert, and both Ken Williams and Rick Hahn were in attendance. The Cardinals, Padres, Athletics, Reds, and Astros have also had private workouts with Robert, according to Badler.

The rub in the Robert bidding is that the White Sox are the only of the six aforementioned teams that have not yet reached their bonus pool limits for this international spending penalty. The fact that those five teams have already done so means they won’t incur additional penalties if they break the bank for Robert, while the White Sox have to decide if he’s worth forfeiting the ability to sign players subject to the bonus pool for the next two signing periods.

Any time the White Sox find themselves in a bidding war, the smart money is on the other team(s), but for what it’s worth, Hahn has said in the past that the White Sox would be willing to go over the bonus pool and be penalized for the right prospect, and he acknowledged how tough the bidding will be Tuesday.

“He’s an extremely talented young man who is going to have an impact on whatever organization he winds up joining and given the fact the collective bargaining agreement changes how these players are treated here these few weeks this is really the last opportunity for certain clubs to exercise strictly their financial might in order to receive such a talent,” Hahn said. “I expect there will be robust bidding on this player.” 

The White Sox unwillingness to break the bank in free agency during supposed contending years was frustrating, and is among the many reasons they’ve reached the point of rebuilding. If they’re unable to sign Robert, it wouldn’t necessarily indicate they’re also unwilling to do so in this regard given the obstacles, but success would be a tremendous step in the right direction and a sign they’re putting their money where their mouth is in terms of committing to the rebuild.

4. Yoan Moncada hasn’t stopped hitting, and is up to .345/.419/.549 at Triple-A Charlotte this season, which means the chatter about when we’ll see him in Chicago hasn’t stopped either. There are worse problems than having a prospect hitting well enough to bring about these never-ending discussions. Like, say, that prospect not playing well.

Moncada is the most important hitting prospect the White Sox have seen in a very long time, and is also the single most important player to the organization’s future. Hahn seems to realize this.

“He’s shown a fair amount of progress in each of those areas that we’ve asked of him,” Hahn said. “That said, we want to see that over an extended period of time. It’s awfully important to not lose sight of the fact this is a 21-year-old player, one who was not playing two years ago as of right now. It’s a guy who has fewer than 325 or so plate appearances above A-ball.

So we think the world of his talent and future and we think he is responding to the challenges we put ahead of him, but we’re not going to rush this.”

The White Sox have the benefit of not needing a quick fix, as it won’t hurt the team’s present for Tyler Saladino, Yolmer Sanchez, or whomever to get extra reps at second base in the meantime. Patience is the preferred path, and there’s no such thing as waiting too long in a situation such as this.

5. Among the more random topics from Hahn’s media session on Tuesday was a question regarding whether the White Sox would consider trading with the Cubs, which garnered an expected response.

“Absolutely,” he said. “Any deal we make is about maximizing the future of the White Sox. … So there is zero issue doing a deal with the Cubs or any of the other 28 teams after them,” Hahn said Tuesday before the Sox lost to the Twins 7-2 at Guaranteed Rate Field. “We’re about putting the White Sox in the best position. Hopefully, through our trades, both sides wind up winners.”

The White Sox haven’t made a trade with the Cubs since 2006, but the Cubs’ early season pitching woes and plethora of prospects, coupled with the White Sox having a trade chip in Jose Quintana have brought about rumblings that they might be fit for a deal.

Nothing substantial has been reported, and speculating otherwise until then is mostly unnecessary, but along with the Astros, Yankees, and others, the Cubs do make a lot of sense.

Lead Photo Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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