White Sox

Tim Anderson wants to be the White Sox shortstop of the future

4chuckta.jpg
USA TODAY

Tim Anderson wants to be the White Sox shortstop of the future

If you follow Sabermetrics, look up the leaders among American League shortstops in WAR(Wins Above Replacement). There in the Top Ten you will find the following names:

5. Didi Gregorius      2.5
6. Manny Machado   2.5
7. Tim Anderson       2.1
8. Xander Bogaerts  2.0

Surprised to see the guy ranked No. 7?

At the end of last year, it looked like this:

11. Jose Iglesias      1.4
12. Tim Beckham     1.3
13. Marcus Semien  1.1
14. Chad Pinder       1.0
15. Tim Anderson     0.9

At a time when the White Sox are feeling the pain of their rebuild, watching how Tim Anderson has developed this year should provide you some relief about the future.

Is he finished product?  No
Does he make a lot of errors and strikeout too much? Yes and yes.

But speaking with him before Friday’s game against the Royals, Anderson sounded like a player who is walking around with a baseball compass.   He knows exactly where he’s at and what he needs to do to arrive at his hopeful destination: greatness.

“What I’m doing this year is a small sample of what’s going to come,” Anderson said.  “I’ve got a lot of work to do. I’ve got to continue to work and get better on offense and defense.  I feel like that’s working for me. I take my work seriously and I know I’ve got to get better, and I feel like I am getting better.”

What does Anderson want to improve on?

“Everything.  Everything. I want to be great, so I’ve got to improve on everything, offense and defense.”

I bring up his 23 walks which are already 10 more than his previous career-high.

Anderson claps his hands.

“I’m proud about that. I didn’t really walk much (last year).  I got in the box and was just ready to go. But now I’m being patient and I’m learning.”

What about his 13 errors which are the second most among shortstops in the American League?  Anderson didn’t hide. 

“We got to get those down,” Anderson said.  “I’m in a good position where I am now compared to where I was last year, but I’ve got a lot of work to do. Obviously the errors are showing that it tells me I got to keep working.  I’m going to clean it up.”

At a time when stolen bases are becoming extinct, Anderson’s 21 thefts are second most in the American League.  He’s projected to finish with 37. Could he hit 40?

“You don’t want to put a number out there and not reach it. For the most part I’m going out there and seeing how many I can get,”  Anderson said. “I feel like “I’ve been doing a great job taking the information they’re giving me and using it in the game. That’s kind of why I’m safe most of the time.”

When the White Sox are ready to win,  will Anderson be their shortstop? The chances of them signing Manny Machado in the off-season are extremely slim. And, you probably don’t want Machado playing shortstop anyway. Check out his defensive metrics. It’s ugly.  Really ugly.

DWAR
95. Xander Bogaerts     -0.7
96. Jody Mercer            -0.9
97.  Alcides Escobar     -1.0
Last. Manny Machado  -1.4

Anderson wants to be the White Sox shortstop of the future and is looking more and more like it. He’s also such a team player, he’d probably play the outfield if the White Sox ever asked him.  He even has a pretty good sense or humor about it.

The White Sox rebuild might have started last season, but the team has been losing ever since he got called up in 2016.  I asked him if the losses are weighing on him. 

“We’re going through a tough stretch right now.  We’re in a rebuild. That’s what everyone’s saying, but you got to look at the future. We’ve got a chance to do something special.  That’s what keeps me going. I’m excited about that. You can only control what you can control,” Anderson said. “Right now we’re in a stretch where we haven’t been winning.  But overall, the clubhouse has been great through the tough times that we’ve been going through and we’ve got some great pieces in the minor leagues that’s going to be up here soon and turn those L’s into W’s.”

Anderson sees the big picture and if the White Sox win a World Series, he wants to be in that championship photo.

“I’m here until the end.  The plan is to bring a championship here and that’s what I’m here for.”

Daniel Palka doesn't feel like he has to prove anything to former team

Daniel Palka doesn't feel like he has to prove anything to former team

Daniel Palka didn’t have time to be disappointed when the Twins designated him for assignment in November — because he had no idea it had happened.

Phone service was spotty in Venezuela where Palka was playing winter ball and it was the White Sox who eventually informed the 26-year-old that they had claimed him off waivers.

“I found out from them and it was a great day,” Palka said before the Sox faced the Twins on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. “It was great for me to become the player I am with the Twins with the help from certain coaches they have but at that point, I was in a good enough position to create my own destiny.”

That destiny not only landed him with the Sox, but as the cleanup hitter in their lineup when they faced Palka’s former organization Wednesday.

“It’s definitely surreal,” Palka said. “You have all your hopes and aspirations but you don’t know what’s going to happen. But it happened.”

It took a while as Palka failed to impress Sox hierarchy enough in spring training to land a roster spot but he eventually got the call to the big-leagues April 24 when Avisail Garcia was placed on the disabled list. On Wednesday, Garcia hit behind Palka in the heart of the order.

Since his recall, Palka has flashed the kind of raw power that can keep a player in the lineup. His quick hands and strength have placed him among the leaders in baseball in exit velocity. Palka has the fifth-fastest exit velocity on a ball hit in the majors this season when he ripped a double off the Twins’ Fernando Romero on June 6 that came off the bat at 118.4 mph.

“I have no idea where it comes from, it just comes,” Palka said of his bat speed. “I just want to be consistent with at bats and just produce, whether it’s RBIs or scoring runs. If I can do that more than the average guy is doing, then that’s going to keep me around.”

Entering Wednesday’s game, Palka was slashing .242/.286/.455 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs.

“He’s got a lightning-quick bat,” Sox manager Rick Renteria said. “He can put the ball out of the ballpark as easily as anybody. He’s learning the major-league game is a little bit different than coning up through the minor-leagues but he’s got certainly a skillset. He’s learning (and) he’s adjusting. He knows that pitchers are adjusting to him now and I think he’s got the mindset and the wherewithal to continue to make adjustments and hopefully find a base of consistency that will allow him to remain here for as long as he can.”

Palka said he wasn’t using the start against his former organization as motivation in the final two games of the series.

“No, they know what kind of player I am now and they knew what I was then,” Palka said. “I have nothing to prove, nothing to lay on the line for them. There are a couple of guys over there that really helped me excel this offseason and I’m thankful for that. Other than that, it’s all love and competition.”

When They Were Prospects: Ron Kittle

When They Were Prospects: Ron Kittle

With such a strong focus on current White Sox prospects, we thought it’d be fun to take a look back at statistics and scouting reports of other South Side stars on their journey to the MLB. Our Chris Kamka dug deep into the numbers.

Ron Kittle’s ascent to the Major Leagues was improbable. Maybe even impossible.

Consider that he said this in 1981 (source: Chicago Tribune 7/20/1981) about his 1977 season:

“I played all season with a paralyzed arm. I don’t know when it happened, but it had to be during baseball because I know I was OK when I went to spring training. At the end of the season, I had surgery, spinal fusion. They took out a piece of hipbone and put it in my neck. I went back to spring training the next year and tried to play, but I couldn’t do it.  Everything was stiff. I couldn’t swing, and I couldn’t throw.”

He won the AL Rookie of the Year six years later.

Released by Dodgers in mid-1978, he went home to Gary, Indiana and played semipro ball and worked in the iron mills with his father and eventually received a tryout with the White Sox. 

By 1981 he was the Eastern League (AA) MVP with Glens Falls, crushing 40 home runs.

For an encore in 1982 he was the Pacific Coast League (AAA) MVP with 50 home runs. Nobody in the MLB-affiliated Minors has hit 50 in a season since.

In 1983 he was the lone White Sox representative in the 50th anniversary All-Star Game held at Comiskey Park. Kittle garnered AL Rookie of the Year honors with 35 round trippers which served as a White Sox rookie record until José Abreu did one better in 2014.

Kittle remains a fan favorite in the Chicagoland area, and he can still handle the lumber… although now he uses bats to make beautiful benches. You can check them out over at ronkittle.com.