White Sox

Desire to prove critics wrong has fueled Tim Anderson's defensive improvement

Desire to prove critics wrong has fueled Tim Anderson's defensive improvement

Those persistent questions about Tim Anderson’s defense that followed him everywhere in the minor leagues have slowed down considerably.

The loud voices attached to those inquiries have begun to tail off, too.

Three months into his rookie season, the White Sox shortstop has made a strong first impression, especially when it comes to a glove that many observers thought might eventually force a position change. Driven by a desire to be the best at his position and silence his critics, the talented first-year player has worked tirelessly to improve his defense. The results of those efforts aren’t only pleasing to the White Sox, they have even begun to sway the opinions of his detractors.

“When I saw him in the Fall League I didn’t see it,” a longtime National League scout said Wednesday. “I thought he would be a center fielder. He has made tremendous strides.

“He’s got great range and a strong arm. He’s hitting for average. He could be a perennial All-Star.”

Nobody quite knew what to expect from Anderson, 23, when the White Sox promoted him to the majors on June 10. The skillset of the 2013 first-round draft pick has never been in question.

Anderson’s speed is exceptional, his bat control is superb and his arm is strong. Those “raw tools” helped Anderson enter the season ranked anywhere from the No. 19 to No. 47 prospect in baseball, according to several publications.

But the questions continued, even as Anderson made progress at every step along the way in the minors. Anderson continues to answer them with some of his best work coming in the majors. Through Wednesday, Anderson is 10th among shortstops with 7 Defensive Runs Saved, according to Fangraphs.com. He also boasts an Ultimate Zone Rating of 4.5, which is 12th.

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

White Sox third-base coach Joe McEwing marvels at the speed with which Anderson has learned.

The two worked together each of the past two springs and every day since Anderson’s promotion. Much of Anderson’s progress is in how quickly he has picked up the speed of the game, ie: knowing how much time he has to get to a ball and then how long until he must get rid of it. He believes Anderson’s blend of talent along with his with his drive and motivation will help him continue to improve.

“The adjustments he’s made in such a quick period of time,” McEwing said. “You see him getting better every day. He’s got what you call “it.” He wants to be the best. He’ll never show it, but he gets frustrated when he struggles.

“He’s an extremely quiet kid. But he wants to be the best and he wants to beat you every single night. He’s got all the ingredients to be a very good player, if not great player, for a long period of time.”

Adding knowledge to those ingredients has only improved the process. Anderson has played 16 games against the Detroit Tigers this season and therefore has already learned the tendencies of their hitters. He relied upon that information to make two spectacular plays in Tuesday’s game, though the one he made against J.D. Martinez still resulted in an infield single. But twice, Anderson positioned himself correctly and was able to track down a ball far in the hole, which took a hit away from Miguel Cabrera.

“His range has expanded and you’re starting to understand hitters and you’re seeing hitters and that’s part of his development,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “His recall of seeing guys over and over again and how guys are pitching and where he’s playing, he understands that a little bit better as he goes around the league. You’re just starting to see a guy improve with the knowledge he’s getting.”

Anderson agrees that the familiarity with opposing hitters has helped. But he also freely admits that the drive to answer his critics has fueled him, too. As long as the questions exist, Anderson plans to answer them.

“I kind of know where to play them,” Anderson said. “I kind of know their swings just like J.D., that ball yesterday, he kind of goes over the head of the third baseman a lot or in that hole.

“I’ve been very comfortable out there doing work and working hard at it. Once again, the word has been that I couldn’t play shortstop.

“So it’s still working and trying to prove them wrong.”

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

After short stint in the majors, White Sox send Zack Collins to Triple-A

When general manager Rick Hahn has talked about bringing up key prospects, he says he wants those players to be able to come up to the majors and stay there. That won't be the case with Zack Collins.

The White Sox sent the catcher down to Triple-A Charlotte following Monday's 5-2 loss to the Royals. No corresponding move will be made until Tuesday, but it is expected Welington Castillo will return from his rehab stint and rejoin the White Sox.

Collins was called up on June 18, but only played in nine games with seven starts in his 28 days on the big league roster. Collins drew a pinch-hit walk in his first plate appearance at the Cubs on June 19. He then homered two days later in his first start in Texas.

After that, Collins struggled. He goes back to Charlotte after hitting .077 (2-for-26) with five walks, the one home run and 14 strikeouts in 31 plate appearances.

It's unclear if Collins had a chance to stick on the roster or if the plan was for him to go back to Triple-A once Castillo was ready to return. Collins certainly didn't do himself any favors at the plate, but he also didn't see regular playing time.

Collins, a first-round pick in 2016, was seen working out at first base in fielding practice before games, but he stuck to catcher and DH. He could have played some first base or DH when Castillo returned. However, the White Sox claimed A.J. Reed off waivers and he debuted after the all-star break. Reed has taken the at-bats at DH, leaving Collins without regular at-bats.

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White Sox prospect Luis Robert on fire fresh off promotion to Triple-A

White Sox prospect Luis Robert on fire fresh off promotion to Triple-A

Luis Robert has been promoted twice in 2019, but nothing has slowed down his red-hot season.

The 21-year-old Cuban has only played in five games for Triple-A Charlotte, but has skipped past the adjustment period and has been productive in all five.

After collecting two hits, a walk and two stolen bases on Monday, Robert is hitting .429/.500/.810 for the Knights. He has reached base at least twice in every game with Charlotte.

Robert has shown some versatility in his game as well. He hit four extra base hits in his first three games, including two home runs in his first game for Charlotte. In the last two he has added three stolen bases. One of the stolen bases on Monday didn’t require a slide.

With Eloy Jimenez coming into his own for the White Sox and Dylan Cease one start into his major league career, Luis Robert is the clear gem of the White Sox system currently. The outfielder is ranked as the No. 5 prospect in baseball by MLB Pipeline.

Charlotte’s BB&T Ballpark is known as a hitters’ park and Triple-A plays with the same baseballs that have been under fire lately for being juiced for hitters in the majors. It makes sense that Robert would put up big numbers, but it’s still an impressive start that has White Sox fans antsy for his call-up.

It’s just five games and the White Sox haven’t been in any rush with their top prospects, but Robert is showing that he isn’t that far away from being ready for MLB pitching.

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