(pictured above: Tim Anderson is showing much promise in his first full season of pro baseball.)
Figuratively and literally, Tim Anderson is a diamond in the rough. Even so, the Chicago White Sox were so smitten with Anderson’s skills that they selected him in the first round of last year’s Major League Baseball Draft (17th overall).
Anderson, 6-feet-1 inch, 180 pounds, is a late bloomer with much upside. Up until a year ago, he was a virtual unknown to pro scouts. All that changed when Anderson led the nation with a .495 batting average while playing for East Central Community College in Mississippi. It was a breakthrough season for the Junior College All-American who slammed 10 home runs and had 45 RBIs.
So now, Anderson’s quest to make it to the Majors has begun in earnest. In his first full season of pro baseball as the shortstop for the Winston-Salem Dash, Anderson has suffered through some low moments. But he’s also displayed an eye-popping skill set which indicates that his best is yet to come.
At the start of this week, Anderson had a .283 batting average with a team-high in runs scored (29) and total bases (81). The Tuscaloosa, Ala. native isn’t a long-ball hitter per se. Yet, there are times when he has shown that he’s more than a spray-the-ball-to-all-fields type of hitter (two home runs and a team-high seven triples). On the base paths, Anderson has delivered when called upon. He’s stolen eight bases in 11 attempts.
“Tim is blessed with so many skills, but a huge plus is that he has wonderful baseball instincts, and that’s something you can’t teach,” said manager Tommy Thompson. “He’s adapted very quickly to the speed of the pro game and when you tell him something, he quickly applies it.”
Anderson’s stat line over a recent 10-game stretch (May 23-June 1) provides ample evidence of how he’s beginning to find his groove at the plate as the Dash’s lead-off hitter. During that span, he hit .370. In six of those games, he had multiple hits, which included a career-high four hits in Winston-Salem’s 4-1 victory over Lynchburg on May 31.
“So far, it’s gone well, but it can be better,” said Anderson, who will celebrate his 21st birthday on June 23. “My pitch recognition has improved, so I’m seeing the ball a lot better. But I realize that baseball is a game where you’ll have strike outs and there will be games where you don’t even get a hit. You’re not going be successful all the time. But you keep in mind that each day is a new day, so you give it your best every time out.”
Anderson hasn’t arrived to this point in his career by conventional means. Even though he played Little League, he stopped playing to devote more time to honing his skills as a basketball point guard. Knee injuries from basketball kept him from playing high school baseball as a freshman and sophomore. When he did return in his junior and senior seasons, he got late starts because the basketball team made deep runs in the state playoffs.
It’s wasn’t until junior college that Anderson devoted all of his time to baseball. His first season at East Central was productive (.hit 360 with 30 stolen bases on 30 attempts), but it wasn’t enough to get the attention of college coaches.
“I did get a late start, so I haven’t played as much baseball as lot of the other players,” he said. “You could say that I’m making up for all the time I missed from high school. As for where I am now (Carolina League), my focus is to keep working, keep learning and to play as many games as I can.”
Thompson is excited about what’s in store for Anderson’s baseball future. He admits that his shortstop is very much a work in progress. He’s not overly concerned about Anderson’s strikeouts (47) and errors (23) totals. Those areas, Thompson explained, can be corrected through repetition and more game experience.
“At this point, yes, he’s raw and crude, but he’s also a smart ball player and he’s exciting to watch,” said Thompson. “When you combine his intangibles, athleticism and instincts, there’s no question that he’ll do well wherever he goes. With Tim, it’s really a matter of getting more reps because he’s so gifted. On one hand, he can make a simple play look unnecessarily difficult. But on the other hand, he can make the extraordinary play look easy.”