The last two seasons have been career-changing for Tim Anderson, to say the least. The Chicago White Sox picked him up in the first round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of East Central Community College, a small JUCO in Decatur, Mississippi. At the time, the hope was that the Southsiders were selecting their shortstop of the future. After making his big-league debut in 2016, Anderson enjoyed a solid start to his career, hitting .283 in 99 games. But the next two seasons would see him struggle, hitting around .250 in both 2017 and 2018.
The 27-year-old has since burst onto the scene, rapidly developing into one of the top hitters in the game. In 2019 Anderson hit an outstanding .335, which led the majors. He also had the lowest walk percentage of any player in the league, drawing free passes just 2.9 percent of the time. Although one trait of a good hitter is being able to draw walks, Anderson is more of a free swinger who puts his barrel to the baseball when possible. Last season he put his name on the map from an offensive standpoint. Defensively, he committed the most errors of any shortstop in the bigs (26). The question was whether Anderson could actually replicate his consistency at the plate in 2020?
Offensive Brilliance Has Continued This Season
The White Sox have clinched a berth in the postseason for the first time since 2008, and Anderson has been a vital reason for their impressive season. This is a roster packed with exciting and vibrant young talent, and he has been leading the way. The former first-rounder is hitting .355, which is third in the majors behind only DJ LeMahieu of the New York Yankees. One could point out that Anderson has only played 43 games and collected just under 200 plate appearances, but even in a condensed season, it’s still extremely impressive to hit for such a high average against the best arms in the game. Anderson has also smacked 10 bombs and hit 11 doubles.
It has been very difficult for any pitcher in Major League Baseball to get Anderson out this season. He went into Chicago’s Monday night matchup with the Cleveland Indians hitting over .320 against all pitches, while absolutely terrorizing fastballs, batting over .400 against the heater. A promising part of Anderson’s approach at the plate is his ability to hit the ball on the ground and let his speed play. According to FanGraphs, Anderson went into Cleveland posting a 54.6 percent ground-ball rate. Whether he’s driving a ball up the middle or through the five-six hole, he’s giving himself a chance to beat out a ground ball if an infielder gets a glove on it.
Anderson also has a very sound approach at the plate, where he uses the entire field quite well. Per Fangraphs, he went into Monday hitting 42.6 percent of baseballs that he makes contact with right up the middle. You’re taught from a young age to hit the ball right back where it came from, and he does just that at a high level. Anderson also does a great job of hitting the ball where it’s pitched, whether he’s turning on a fastball in the inside corner of the plate or spraying a curveball down the right-field line. In all aspects, he is turning himself into a very good hitter.
In September alone, Anderson is slashing .390/.415/.584, which includes a five-game hitting streak. Without his offensive production on a nightly basis, Chicago wouldn’t have already solidified a spot in the playoffs. He is crucial to this ballclub.
Improvements Defensively Will Put Him in Elite Conversation
Anderson is already proving that he can swing it, but he has disappointed in the field. Blessed with superior athleticism and a strong arm across the diamond, he has made far too many errors throughout his big-league career, including a rough 2019 campaign.
This year Anderson has already made improvements, committing just five errors. He has clearly been putting in serious work to get better at shortstop, and it’s already showing. Although it’s a smaller sample size (43 games) it’s a step in the right direction for him. Once Anderson becomes more of a defensive wizard, he will start to be considered one of the best all-around shortstops in the game.
Anderson has been criticized at times for his controversial bat flips, but simply, it’s just the way he plays the game. He’s a confident player who plays with flair, and it’s part of why he has enjoyed so much success offensively across the last two seasons.
Another American League batting title is well in reach for Tim Anderson as he leads the Chicago White Sox into their first postseason in 12 years.