White Sox

White Sox: 'Aggressive' Tim Anderson making good progress

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White Sox: 'Aggressive' Tim Anderson making good progress

Maybe Tim Anderson will be the answer to the growing questions the White Sox are confronting at shortstop.

The 22-year-old entered Thursday hitting .308 with a .741 OPS in 69 games for Class-AA Birmingham, his first full season back in his home state of Alabama. He has 25 steals in 31 attempts, 14 doubles and six triples, and his 89 hits lead the Southern League — in which players are, on average, two years older than him.

“I feel like I’ve come a long ways compared to where I was two years ago,” Anderson, the White Sox first-round pick in 2013, said. “Everything’s just starting to click.”

The White Sox are pleased with Anderson’s progress, but recognize he still has a ways to go in his development.

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A hand injury limited Anderson to 84 games and 364 plate appearances in 2014, and he’ll finally reach the 1,000 plate appearance mark sometime in July. He doesn’t have the extensive baseball background of other top prospects, having not played the game competitively until his junior year of high school in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Anderson’s approach at the plate needs the most refinement, despite his solid offensive production. White Sox director of player development Nick Capra said Anderson is “freelancing a little bit too much” with his approach and while the organization likes his aggressiveness, they do want to see it dialed back a bit.

In 304 plate appearances this year, Anderson has walked 10 times against 62 strikeouts. But that’s not necessarily what the White Sox are concerned about.

Capra said Anderson has a tendency to swing at pitcher’s pitches — like a slider diving low and off the plate — early in counts. His quick hands and good plate coverage allow him to make contact with those pitches, but it’s not always good contact.

“We’d rather him maybe be a little bit more patient and look for hitter’s pitches to hit early in the count,” Capra said. “But he’s hitting .300 and leading the league in hits, so we don’t want to take that aggressiveness away from him. We want him to be an aggressive hitter.”

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Still, the White Sox aren’t going to parachute in and make any major adjustments to Anderson’s approach or overall offensive game. The thought is as Anderson continues to get more baseball experience, the pitch recognition and plate discipline will begin to come around.

“That’s the tough part about it — he’s having so much success, we don’t want to get in his way,” Capra said. “We don’t want to give him too much information that may kind of dwarf his experience or his path to development. We gotta be subtle in the way we do things with him.”

Anderson isn’t going to be the patient, sit-on-your-pitch type of hitter. He’s going swing, and swing a lot. That’s who he’s comfortable being as a player.

“I’m still aggressive and I’m always going to be aggressive,” Anderson said. “It’s just my style of hitting and how I hit. I feel like I’ve got a lot better, I’m making a lot of contact and squaring a lot of balls up.”

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The White Sox are nonetheless happy with the strides Anderson has made offensively, but they’re even more pleased with his improvement in two areas that the major league club has struggled with: Baserunning and defense.

Anderson’s baserunning instincts have taken a major step forward, Capra said, as he’s learned how to read pitchers and better time his jumps. He only stole 10 bases in 15 attempts in 2014 but his 81 percent success rate this year is the result of a better feel for that part of his game.

After making 31 errors last year, and booting a few balls during his spring training showcases, plenty of questions were raised if Anderson could stay at shortstop. He’s made 15 errors this year, though he and Capra attributed that still-elevated total to him having better range — especially to his right — and instincts in the field.

The White Sox have a track record of being aggressive in promoting prospects through the minor league ranks, and Alexei Ramirez has the lowest WAR of any qualified player this year (-1.3). The elephant in the room is Ramirez’s $10 million club option for 2016 (with a $1 million buyout) — Anderson may not be ready by the start of the 2016 season, but there a path could be cleared for him to reach the majors as soon as this fall.

Anderson, though, isn’t looking at the big picture. He’s not thinking about moving up to Triple-A, let alone the major leagues, and trusts that process will take care of itself so long as he remains focused on his craft in Birmingham.

“It’s just control what I can control and not get too excited about that,” Anderson said. “It’s gonna happen, it’s just, who knows when it’s gonna happen because I can’t control that, I can’t make that call. It’s just basically doing what I’m doing where I’m at and just staying focused.”

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

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USA TODAY

White Sox free up spot on 40-man roster by outrighting Dylan Covey

The White Sox freed up a spot on their 40-man roster Sunday, outrighting pitcher Dylan Covey to Triple-A Charlotte.

Covey pitched in 18 games last season, making 12 starts for the South Siders. Things did not go well, with Covey turning in an 0-7 record and a 7.71 ERA in 70 innings.

While there was an outside chance that Covey could have provided at least some starting-pitching depth heading into the 2018 season, the team's recent additions of Miguel Gonzalez and Hector Santiago — not to mention Covey's results from last season — wiped out that idea.

At the moment, the White Sox starting rotation figures to look like this by Opening Day: James Shields, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Gonzalez and Carson Fulmer, with Santiago seeming like a good option to provide depth as the long man in the bullpen.