As the 2021 White Sox approach spring training, they still face questions on how they will fill a few roster spots. They need to decide the last two spots in the rotation, as well as the last couple spots in the bullpen. They also need to identify a backup catcher. The DH position is also undecided it seems, at this point.
While the White Sox finish sorting out their final roster, there are several positions where they are ready to go in 2021. One of these is at shortstop, where Tim Anderson resides. A first-round draft pick in 2013, Anderson has been the everyday Sox shortstop since 2017.
Anderson"s development as a hitter has accelerated greatly over the last two seasons. In 2019, he won the AL batting title with a .335 batting average. He followed that up by hitting .322 and winning a Silver Slugger award in 2020. Anderson also finished seventh in MVP voting. This in spite of the fact that his teammate, Jose Abreu, won the award. If the 2021 White Sox are to be serious contenders, he will have to continue to hit at this high level.
2021 White Sox: What Tim Anderson Brings To The Table
While Anderson has shown vast improvement in his hitting, he does more than hit for average. TA7 is no singles hitter, as demonstrated by his OPS over the last two years of .865 and .886. His OPS+ for the same years were 128 and 141. These numbers suggest that he has become an elite hitter. Add that to the fact that Anderson can also steal a base when the situation calls for it.
Beyond the numbers, TA7 brings a swagger not seen on the South Side in quite a while. Yes, he may come across as overconfident or cocky. He also can get under the skin of opposing players. He has also been outspoken about the game itself, and how MLB needs to embrace the young stars starting to emerge. These are all parts of his personality and part of what makes him who he is. This is the personality he will bring to the 2021 White Sox.
If Jose Abreu is the soft-spoken team leader, Tim Anderson is the catalyst. While Anderson is not known for drawing walks, he has been rather effective in the leadoff spot. His energy and enthusiasm help set the tone for the rest of the team. In 2020, when he missed games due to injury, the Sox offense struggled to score runs. Upon his return, the offense picked up the pace, and they went on to make the playoffs.
Tim Anderson: What The Critics Say
TA7 is not without flaw, to be sure. Some critics cite his lack of patience at the plate. He tends to be a free swinger and can look totally fooled at times. Many question whether he has staying power in the leadoff spot with his low walk totals. This is a valid point; however, fans should not expect to see anybody else batting leadoff anytime soon. As long as new manager Tony LaRussa doesn"t tinker with the top of the order, TA7 is your leadoff man.
The bigger question many have about TA7"s game though is his defense. He has been prone to make errors on simple plays while also making spectacular plays. His athleticism allows him to cover ground and his arm is one of the stronger arms in the game. These natural skills make his overall defense tougher to swallow, especially for fans who are defense-minded.
Anderson has made 94 errors in 565 games, which is a high error ratio. Additionally, his career fielding percentage is .959. In the newer statistical computations, he is middle of the pack. By any statistical measure, Anderson has not been any better than average defensively. Even the most staunch TA7 supporters would have to agree with this assessment.
Tim Anderson: What To Expect In 2021
So, it would appear that there are two big questions facing Tim Anderson. Firstly, will he continue to hit as well as he has the last two years? Or, will pitchers figure him out and adjust accordingly? This will be interesting to watch. Batting in the leadoff spot, he will be crucial to the Sox success offensively.
Based on the arc of his career, it seems reasonable to expect that TA7 will perform well at the plate. He is just hitting prime age (he turns 28 during the season), and there is no reason to expect a drop-off. Additionally, the 2021 White Sox lineup will be deep, which should ease any pressure on TA7. Smart money is on Tim Anderson to have a solid year at the plate.
The second big question, and possibly the more important one would be how much Anderson"s defense will improve. Shortstop is a premier defensive position, and to this point, Anderson has just not been good enough. Without improved defensive play from their shortstop, the 2021 White Sox will be hard-pressed to advance deep into the playoffs.
While the answer to the second question will be revealed as the season unfolds, Anderson"s history suggests that he can raise his defensive game. The same work ethic that helped him become a solid hitter will also help him in his efforts to become a better shortstop. He takes pride in his game and has committed to doing whatever it takes to be the player the White Sox need him to be. He knows he must be better, and the time is now.
Putting it all together, the 2021 White Sox need TA7 to step up his game defensively if they are to compete on a daily basis. It is that simple, and most Sox fans would agree. Some of the errors he makes are on some of the most simple plays. Perhaps it is a lack of concentration, or maybe too casual of an approach. Tim Anderson must overcome whatever has held him back defensively. If he is able to do so, teams in the AL better be wary of the 2021 White Sox. They will be a handful, and just might be playing deep into October.
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