The Situation: After a dominant start, the White Sox have sputtered and now sit in fourth place in the AL Central. To try and help right the ship, they’ll call on Tim Anderson to man shortstop, cutting loose JImmy Rollins in the process.
Background: Anderson was one of the most talented bats in the 2013 draft coming out of East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, and the White Sox procured his services with the 17th pick that June. The White Sox aggressively sent him to Kannapolis, and he performed admirably. His stock really took off after an impressive 2014 campaign, and it took another jump after hitting .312 in Double-A Birmingham last year. A wrist injury saw him struggle to start the 2016 campaign, but he hit .349/.387/.488 in May, earning a call to the majors in the process.
Scouting Report: Anderson is an outstanding athlete, and that athleticism shows up in his swing. He has quick, strong wrists that give him plus bat speed, and he stings the ball to all parts of the field. Expecting big power totals is a fool’s errand, but if you challenge him middle-in or low-and-in, he can capitalize and pull the ball out to left field, with enough strength to put the ball into the opposite-field gap as well. He’s a plus-plus runner, and he has the type of speed you see from guys who steal 30-plus bases, if he gets on enough to do it.
The concern here, however, is that Anderson’s approach is lacking, and that might be putting it nicely. He’s an aggressive hitter who rarely works counts. He did draw a career best eight walks in May, but those are the only eight walks he’s had this season. It doesn’t mean he can’t play everyday, but it does put an awful lot of pressure on his hit tool and defense.
And speaking of his defense, Anderson has turned himself into a pretty good shortstop. The arm is plus—or at least close to it—and he has the range to make his plays to his left and right with improved footwork. He’s not immune to the mental gaffe, but he should take away enough hits to deal with the occasional error.
Immediate Big League Future: There’s no question that Anderson has the athleticism and skills to be a successful big leaguer right now, and if you’re asking me, I certainly think he’s going to help the White Sox more than Rollins did. That being said, I do have major concerns about the approach. It’s one thing to not do this at the minor-league level, it’s another thing when you’re going to be facing major league pitchers with the ability to command these pitches. If there’s such thing as a high-risk, high-reward call up, it’s Anderson. I’ll be fascinated to see how it all plays out. —Christopher Crawford
Fantasy Take: A polarizing prospect among fantasy analysts, some envision Anderson as future five-category superstar in his prime, while others understandably question whether he will hit enough to take advantage of his electrifying speed on the base paths. Regardless, Anderson’s off-the-charts athleticism, stolen-base prowess and rapidly improving hit tool, blended with immediate shortstop eligibility, are enough to make him one of the most intriguing fantasy options in the game today, as evidenced by his lofty ranking (10th overall) on Bret Sayre’s pre-season Top 101 Fantasy Prospects list.
The 22-year-old is still developing as a hitter, but excelled at Triple-A Charlotte this season, hitting .304/.325/.409 with 39 runs scored, 16 extra-base hits (four home runs), 20 RBI and 11 stolen bases in just 256 plate appearances. With stolen bases evaporating league-wide at an alarming pace, Anderson, who has swiped 94 bases in 331 career minor-league games, can make an immediate impact for fantasy owners in that department. An extremely aggressive approach at the plate strongly suggests that a steep adjustment curve is coming upon his immediate exposure to major-league pitching, making it likely he derives the vast majority of his value from his speed this season. Long-term, if the bat continues to develop, and he finds a way to stick at shortstop, Anderson has the potential to develop into an elite fantasy option at the position. –George Bissell
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