I have to start this post off with a caveat: Tim Anderson’s value takes a major hit in OBP leagues (his BB rate last year was 3%) so take that into account if you play in one of those leagues. Having gotten that out of the way, I love Tim Anderson for 2017. In 431 PA in 2016 Anderson logged a solid fantasy line of 9 HR, 57 R, 30 RBI, 10 SB and a .283 AVG. Tim Anderson will be an up and down player in 2017 but he is virtually guaranteed to be the full-time SS and may end up in a very favorable lineup situation. Overall Anderson has a solid shot at being a top 15 or even top 10 SS and can be had at a late round price.
Let’s start with the easy one: speed. Tim Anderson certainly has wheels with his career high in SB coming in AA in 2015 with 49. The lowest SB% he has ever had over a full professional season is 69.5% in 2014 which is still pretty good. Last year he was at 77.8% across two levels including 10/12 in the majors. Using FanGraphs Spd metric (assigns an overall value to a players speed and baserunning ability) Anderson was 5th in all of baseball among players with at least 400 PA. It’s hard to know just how new White Sox coach Rick Renteria will handle the running game which may affect Anderson. In his one season as the Cubs manager, the Cubs were 22nd in total SB attempts (SB+CS). In Robin Ventura’s time as manager, the Sox were ranked 11th. One year on a bad Cubs team isn’t enough to draw any meaningful conclusion but it is something to keep an eye on. For someone like Anderson who struggles to get on base, any restrictions on his running game could be an issue. Having said that, I still see him as a virtual lock to net at least 15 SB with 20+ being the likely outcome.
The current projected lineup for the White Sox over as Roster Resource has Anderson batting 2nd behind Charlie Tilson. This makes my heart flutter even though it’s horrible lineup construction. Batting a low OBP guy in the two hole is just a bad move if it ends up that way it’s a major win for Anderson owners. The difference between the 2nd spot and the 7th or 8th spot is worth about a half of a PA per game. Over a full season that can make a big difference. Anderson mainly batted leadoff or 2nd last year and the hope is that he stays there. If he does, he should be able to chip in a very healthy run total. The Sox lineup isn’t exactly a powerhouse but Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, and Todd Frazier (if none are traded) form a nice group behind Anderson. There might not be a ton of RBI opportunities but I think we’ll give Anderson a pass if he can chip in 75 runs.
Average is the one obvious area of regression that is almost certainly coming for Anderson. His .375 BABIP just doesn’t seem sustainable. Anderson has speed but he also has an average line drive rate and wasn’t special in hitting the ball hard (slightly above average according to FG and slightly below according to Baseball Savant). His K rate in 2016 of 27.1% is also a problem (even more so coupled with his BB rate). It would be nice to see him improve in his second year. He was in the low 20s for K rate in AA and AAA so there’s hope. None of these things bode well for another .280+ AVG but I don’t think we’ll see a precipitous drop-off. Anderson should still post a usable AVG and with more BABIP luck it could rise into the good zone. He was typically graded out as having a plus hit tool so there is plenty of room for optimism.
Finally, let’s discuss power because chicks dig the long ball. Anderson has never been known as a slugger with a single season professional career high in HR of only 13 which happened last year. Most prospect teams didn’t grade Anderson’s power very highly. FG was one of the most optimistic and they gave him a 20 present grade (going into last season) with a 45+ future grade. Given his HR output in 2016, I think Anderson has already nearly reached that future grade with some room to grow. His 12.35% HR/FB is above average but not nearly high enough to call it unlikely to repeat. He does put the ball on the ground a lot (54% last year) at the cost of fly balls, but when he does get loft on the ball, he has the power to put it into the seats. ESPN’s Home Run Tracker gives a type to home runs which can help us tell how lucky a HR was (i.e. did it barely clear the fence). Below is a chart showing how Anderson’s HR stacked up last year.
As you can see, Anderson only had one HR out of nine that qualified as lucky. The rest were clear HR. The other thing to note is that he was able to hit some dingers on the road and wasn’t just taking advantage of the Cell. However, knowing that Anderson plays in a top 5 park for right handed power only boosts the argument for Anderson. Another interesting note is that Anderson showed a fairly strong weak side split last year with a 114 wRC+ against LHP and a 90 wRC+ against RHP. However, he cranked out seven of his nine HR against RHP. That’s a promising development for Anderson. He might not make contact against RHP often, but when he does he can put it out. I don’t think Anderson gets to 20 HR this year and like Xander Bogaerts he may never fully develop into a power threat, but I think he can get into the mid-teens for the foreseeable future.
I have seen Anderson ranked as high as 17 but for most sites, he’s in the 20s. I have him all the way at 10 for SS. In most drafts, he figures to go very late, potentially even undrafted but he absolutely possess the ability to finish as a top 15 SS. If I miss out on one of the big names, I will definitely be targeting Anderson. He has some risk but the potential for 15/25 with good R and AVG numbers is too tantalizing, especially at such a low draft cost.