Now that the draft has passed it’s time to get caught up on the weekend’s most significant call-up, that of White Sox top prospect Tim Anderson. Anderson was hitting .304/.325/.409 at Triple-A Charlotte before his promotion.
First, let’s appreciate how incredible it is that Anderson has come this far in such a short amount of time. He didn’t begin playing baseball seriously until his junior year of high school and received no Division I offers despite playing just under eight miles from the University of Alabama and for a school that has produced big-league talent in the past in former reliever Brandon Medders. Instead, Anderson’s chief athletic accomplishment in high school came in basketball, where he helped Hillcrest High School capture an Alabama state title in 2011 (video here, Anderson is #12). Jalen Brown, who clearly looks like the best scorer on that team, ended up averaging just over 10 points per game at Shelton State College, another local school that whiffed on Anderson.
After he began focusing on baseball, Anderson ended up at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi, and slashed .306/.425/.500 with 30 steals in 30 attempts (per Baseball Cube) as a freshman in 2012 but somehow went undrafted. He was finally unearthed during a small college summer league later that year, then blew up at an autumn JUCO showcase and was selected in the first round the following June.
Anderson has prodigious physical skill. He has plus bat speed, clunky-yet-effective bat control and an ability to drive the ball to various parts of the field despite footwork that’s usually indicative of pull-only hitters. In fact, three of Anderson’s four home runs this season have been to right field. Despite special bat speed, Anderson doesn’t yet have a feel for striking the baseball in a way that generates consistent lift, especially to his pull side, and most of his contact is hard but into the ground. It’s a unique contact profile and one that’s tough to grade, but generally scouts think Anderson will end up a 50 or 55 hitter.
Part of what will aid in Anderson’s ability to get on base, especially considering how ground-ball heavy he can be, is his speed. Anderson is a 70 runner but, because of the way his swing often pulls him down the third-base line, it plays down from home to first and I’ve never gotten a time better than 4.20, which is still plus. His base-running is incredible, though, and he coasts from first to third briskly and efficiently.
There’s average raw power here, but again, it doesn’t play like that in game — not right now, anyway — and might never be more than a 40 on the scale. I think there’s a chance that Anderson’s feel for loft comes late and you see more power, though probably never more than 50 game power. For now, I think it’s reasonable to project a half grade’s worth of improvement in that area.
Expect all areas of Anderson’s offense to initially play below his physical abilities. He has an epicurean approach to hitting and swings freely and aggressively. His walk rate is somewhat troubling — Anderson hasn’t posted a walk rate over 4.4% in a moderate sample at any level since his 2013 debut in A-ball — and he will need to improve his approach to realize his offensive potential.
Anderson’s defense faces some scrutiny, as well. He comfortably has the necessary range, arm (60) and athleticism to play shortstop but is technically unpolished and will sometimes boot basic plays. Though he has improved, and major-league instruction will probably continue to help, there’s still work to be done in this area.
Though there’s some volatility in discerning just how impactful he’ll be, Anderson is almost certainly going to be a useful major-league player given his explosiveness and ability to play shortstop. I wouldn’t suggest White Sox fans or redraft fantasy owners get their collective hopes up this season, but Anderson has a chance to be an above-average everyday player if even some of his present ills are remedied — and a star if all of them are.
Also of note for the White Sox, Michael Ynoa’s eight-year minor-league Odyssey ends as he makes his major-league debut at the age of 24. Reports on Ynoa, who was originally signed for $4.25 million by Oakland in 2008, are of the middle-relief variety: 92-96 mph with a breaking ball that flashes above average but lacks consistency (though it seems to have been more regularly effective of late) and below-average control. It’s worth noting that Ynoa has only pitched on back-to-back days once this year, on June 1 and 2, and surrendered two hits, two walks and three runs in a third of an inning on the second of those days. He has allowed a base-runner in 16 of his 18 appearances since being promoted to Triple-A.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.