White Sox fans might have their eyes on the future, but the 2018 season has plenty of intrigue all its own. As Opening Day nears, let's take a look at the 18 most pressing questions for the 2018 edition of the South Side baseball team.
Tim Anderson has the full support of the White Sox and seems like a new man after a trying 2017 campaign.
But there are still plenty of questions surrounding him heading into 2018, putting him in the company of a lot of his teammates who are also embarking on "prove it" seasons on the South Side.
Is Anderson the shortstop of the future? For now, the obvious answer is yes, as the White Sox have seemingly placed their chips on the 24-year-old, who is signed through the 2022 season. Anderson will get every opportunity to show that he's the everyday answer up the middle for years to come.
But with highly touted prospects penciled in at seemingly every other position on the field, can Anderson keep up and meet the high expectations as the wave of talent reaches the big league level?
It's easy to forget that Anderson hasn't been a big leaguer very long. He's yet to play in 250 major league games. But his first full season — and more specifically the numbers he produced during it — have left some fans to wonder if an upgrade will eventually be needed at shortstop.
Anderson committed 28 errors in the field, the most in the majors by a pretty wide margin, and he slashed just .257/.276/.402, walking only 13 times compared to 162 strikeouts. His .679 OPS ranked 135th out of 144 qualified major league hitters.
That's not to say there weren't positive signs. Anderson made just six errors over the season's final two and a half months. And at the plate, he had a strong finish, slashing .323/.338/.474 with three homers, nine doubles, 13 RBIs and 23 runs scored in his last 32 games.
But in 2018, Anderson will have to prove which version is the real him: the one from the season's first few months or the one from the last couple?
Obviously the off-the-field circumstances that made their way onto the field had a lot to do with things. Anderson admitted that the emotional effects of the death of his best friend impacted his play. And that, of course, is understandable. He's seemed much different in interviews this offseason and during spring training. He said during SoxFest that "to get away from baseball was definitely the best thing to happen" and it allowed him to get to "a better place."
What kind of impact that will have remains to be seen. Anderson doesn't have to worry about one of these young guys coming for his job, as there isn't a highly ranked shortstop in the White Sox loaded farm system. But fans have been coveting Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado for years, and he's moved to shortstop for the 2018 season. He's set to be one of the headlining members of next winter's monster free-agent class.
So just like so many of his teammates — Matt Davidson, Nicky Delmonico, Carson Fulmer, Yolmer Sanchez and even Avisail Garcia — Anderson will have to spend the 2018 campaign (he'll get a little longer than that and longer than any of those guys, you would figure) to prove that he is a member, and in his case a starring member, of the White Sox promising future.