The Chicago White Sox may be off to a slow start at 11-14, but they are getting significant contributions from an unlikely source. Tim Anderson has taken a tremendous leap forward this season. This has flown under the radar due to a controversial bat flip against the Kansas City Royals on April 17th stealing his spotlight. All in all, Anderson is fueling the White Sox offense early on.
Despite an arms race to acquire top prospects, the White Sox have struggled to successfully develop their young players. Aside from Anderson, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Eloy Jimenez (though a small sample size), and Yoan Moncada are all highly touted players struggling to begin their careers. That being said, Moncada has also played much better so far in 2019, like Anderson, although not quite to the same level as him.
What He’s Doing
Removing Anderson’s earlier antics from the equation, his first month numbers would not have been expected from previously a career .256/.286/.411 hitter. Entering play on April 29th, he is leading the league with a .385 average. Additionally, he is getting on base at a .404 clip and slugging .604. His five home runs put him on pace for 36, which would shatter his career-high of 20.
Anderson always possessed the speed to steal bases, culminating in a career-high 26 steals in 153 games in 2018. His ten steals also top the early leader board. Ten steals in 22 games put him on a favorable path to set another career best this year.
One contributing factor to his success is a drastic drop in K%. He currently strikes out 20.2% of the time (19 times in 94 plate appearances). While that is only considered to be average, it is a significant decrease from his career 26% (428/1,643). Therefore, he is making more contact than his previous three seasons, and making less outs as a result.
One issue with Anderson’s play thus far is his ability to draw walks. His .404 on base percentage is impressive, but it is padded by his batting average. This is seen as his BB% sits at 2.1% with only two walks in 94 plate appearances.
This statistic is worse than his already anemic 3.4% career walk rate entering the season. For reference, 8.0% is considered average, 5.5% is considered poor, and 4.0% is considered awful. Anderson falls even below that.
Why It’s Important
The White Sox were all in on signing Manny Machado during the off season to play shortstop and third base. While those efforts ultimately proved futile, Anderson has stood out as the reason to forget. Machado is the bigger name, but Anderson is also a former first round pick (17th overall in 2013).
At this point in time, Machado’s numbers pale in comparison to Anderson’s. His .385 average is astronomically better than Machado’s .242 right now. That being said, Machado’s career batting average is .281, and a regression of some form should be expected by Anderson. Therefore, it is not absurd to think that their averages will be much closer at the end of the season than they are now.
As for other statistics, Anderson has struck out less and currently edges Machado in home runs, RBI, steals, runs scored, doubles, total bases, on base percentage, and slugging percentage (and OPS as a result). Offensively, Machado has the edge in only walks with 11 to Anderson’s two.
When considering defense, Machado does edge Anderson in the field. Despite a DRS of 0 at third base, his better defensive position, Machado has been playing better defense than Anderson, who’s DRS is currently -7.
It is normal to expect Anderson to cool off at some point. For now, it is nice to see a former first round pick flash the potential that justifies his draft status. Even though the White Sox are currently under .500, Anderson fuels the lineup and brings hope that more prospects can take the next step in their development.
Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images