On the surface, 2018 wasn’t all that different than 2017 for Tim Anderson offensively. a .240/.281/.406 line and 85 wRC+ isn’t anything overwhelmingly special. He’s still a free swinger, although he did post minimal improvements in both his walk rate (2.1 to 5.0 percent) and strikeout rate (26.7 to 24.6 percent). He also showed more power with an ISO of .166 that was fairly easily the highest of his career.
The biggest difference, thought, between Anderson’s frustrating, replacement-level 2017 and this year, when he posted a career-high 3.0 WARP, is defense. For two years now, Anderson has been the type of raw-but-toolsy type who is easy to get excited about, but with enough deficiencies on both sides of the ball to ever live up to his potential. He is still that, but the incremental improvements he’s made since being thrust into an ill-fated attempt at contention in 2016 make it easy to be more optimistic than ever that he is the White Sox shortstop of the future.
And it’s the word shortstop that is the key there, because even the staunchest Anderson believers outside of the organization over the last couple of years have wondered aloud if his future was truly at the position, and the type of offensive production he’s shown is much more playable and enticing if he’s someone who can be trusted defensively at such an important position.
The results are in the numbers. BP’s defensive metric, FRAA, had Anderson at -11.7 last season after a -4.7 showing in his debut season. This year? 9.1, good for fourth best among shortstops. Anderson himself has attributed the improvement — which didn’t really start rounding into shape until a rocky first few months — was more about confidence than anything else. It’s good, and coupled with solid power for the position, tolerable offensive numbers, and above-average base running, you’ve got yourself an everyday starting shortstop.
Something that’s been brought up time and time and against since Anderson was drafted is how new he is to baseball. He’s less new with each passing year, of course, but one of the more interesting developments to follow with players like him are less quantifiable aspects like work ethic and focused efforts to improve perceived weaknesses. That’s something we’ve seen. Some have been incremental, like the walk rate — nobody will ever mistake him for Tony Gwynn — but for a player who’s still just 25, the improvements there, at the plate as a whole, and most specifically defensively, are legitimate positive signs of growth.
Not a lot went right for the 2018 White Sox, but the progress from the young shortstop with a world of skills isn’t one of them. He may never be a star, but after a season like he just had, it’s reasonable to be more confident than ever that he’ll be at shortstop for the White Sox for the foreseeable future.
Lead Photo Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports