Projecting White Sox Callup Tim Anderson

Super two deadline season is underway, so expect to see some well-regarded prospects get the call over the next couple of weeks. The most recent player to get the call is White Sox shortstop, Tim Anderson. Anderson hit .304/.325/.409 in Triple-A this season. He has 11 steals to his name this year, but swiped an eye-popping 49 last year.

Anderson oozes tools and has put up fine minor league numbers the past couple of years, but his plate discipline could use some work. He struck out in 23% of his trips to the plate this year at Triple-A, and walked in just 3%. The strikeout and walk numbers were just as bad in the lower levels.

Most concerning of all are those strikeouts, especially in light of his unremarkable power. Anderson ISO’d .106 at Triple-A this year, and at least some of that is due to his 70-grade speed rather than anything he did with the bat. His offensive profile is driven entirely by speed and BABIP. This is somewhat concerning, even considering that — as a shortstop — Anderson doesn’t need to hit a ton.

Anderson ranked 36th on KATOH’s pre-season list with a projected 6.0 WAR over the next six years. Adding in his 2016 stats, his forecast dips to 4.1 WAR. Why the drop? For one, all of his hitting stats ticked in the wrong direction this year. But more importantly, his stolen base numbers regressed substantially. KATOH’s always doubted Anderson’s ability to hit, but now it’s slightly less sure about his ability to provide value in other ways. Namely, in the field and on the bases.

To put some faces to Anderson’s statistical profile, let’s go ahead and generate some statistical comps for the toolsy shortstop. I calculated a weighted Mahalanobis Distance between Anderson’s Double-A and Triple-A numbers since the start of 2015 and every season at those levels since 1990 in which a shortstop recorded at least 400 plate appearances. In the table below, you’ll find the 10 most similar seasons, ranked from most to least similar. The WAR totals refer to each player’s first six seasons in the major leagues.

Tim Anderson’s Mahalanobis Comps
Rank Name Proj. WAR Actual WAR
1 Greg Smith 2.8 0.0
2 Alcides Escobar 5.6 10.8
3 Felix Martinez 2.5 1.4
4 Jason Smith 1.6 0.6
5 Carlos Garcia 2.8 2.4
6 Robert Andino 2.6 1.9
7 Kim Batiste 2.4 0.0
8 Cale Iorg 0.4 0.0
9 Eduardo Nunez 4.3 1.6
10 Lou Collier 2.6 0.6

Anderson’s hit for a high average in the minors, but relied more on BABIP than contact skills to get by. That profile doesn’t always translate well to the big leagues, as the lackluster collection of names above helps illustrate. Steamer’s also bearish on the shortstop, pegging him for just a 75 wRC+ hitter against big league pitching. It’s worth noting that Anderson’s cut down on his strikeouts in recent weeks at Triple-A. Perhaps that means he’s made the right adjustments. Perhaps he’ll immediately rake, and make all of these projections look silly. Or, perhaps not. We’ll find out soon enough.

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Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. He's also on the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell None of the views expressed in his articles reflect those of his daytime employer.

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I can’t believe there was still another Iorg that played pro baseball.