Late this morning, Paul Skrbina of the Chicago Tribune reported that the White Sox were calling up top prospect Tim Anderson, and designating Jimmy Rollins for assignment. Rollins is currently hitting .221/.295/.329, and his once sterling defense is now fringe average at best. The soon-to-be 23-year-old Anderson was batting .304/.325/.409 in his first crack at Triple-A, with 4 HR and 11 SB in 256 PA. Here is what Jason Hunt had to say about the White Sox top prospect last Fall:
While our writers were in agreement that Anderson was the clear cut top prospect in the White Sox system, there was division about whether he belonged in tier 1 or tier 2. Anderson has shown the potential to be an above-average hitter, providing a high batting average with some power and a lot of speed. The ceiling can potentially be a .300 hitter with 10+ HR and 40+ SB on a regular basis, but there are concerns. Anderson has shown some rather brutal strikeout-to-walk totals (114 to 24 in 2015) due in part to his strike-zone judgment. While it has not affected his numbers to date, it is something you'd like to see improve on in his next stop. It also remains an open question whether he will end up as a shortstop long-term, or will need to move to either second base or center field. He'll likely head to AAA in 2016, but could see time in the majors at some point.
Anderson was a consensus top-50 prospect heading into 2016 - Baseball Prospectus’ writers quite bullish, ranking him 19th, our writers ranked him 31st overall, MLB.com ranked him 42nd, and Baseball America and Keith Law both ranked him 45th. His stock has remained fairly steady, though his low walk rate (3.1%) and high strikeout rate (22.7%) remain an ongoing concern. The closest successful comparison in the Majors right now is Starling Marte - he has a 2.9 BB% and 21.8 K% in 2016, and 4.6 BB% and 22.8 K% for his career.
Interestingly enough, I do think that Marte is a reasonable comparison for Anderson. While Marte has shown more in-game power throughout his professional career, Anderson has the quick wrists and raw power to hit 12 to 15 home runs (particularly playing half of his games in U.S. Cellular Field), and he will provide a fair bit of defensive value. His future may lie in center field, as his play at short remains inconsistent - but he has the range, athleticism, and arm strength to stick there (and the White Sox will give him every opportunity to do so). I am confident that Anderson will be an asset defensively in the long-term - I'm just not sure where that will be.
Given the team’s lack of other options, it seems likely that shortstop is Anderson’s position to lose going forward. His speed and base-running ability will prove to be an immediate asset - both for the White Sox and for fantasy owners - but the team’s struggling lineup may not afford him a great deal of run producing opportunities. Anderson's ability to make consistent hard contact and tap into his power will determine his fantasy value; and, if he provides the sort of boost that he is truly capable of, we may see some of the other bats perk up around him.