Tim Anderson

White Sox Team of the Future: Shortstop

White Sox Team of the Future: Shortstop

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) this month. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

White Sox Nation is on pins and needled waiting to see if mega free agent Manny Machado is going to decide to spend the better part of the next decade on the South Side. Well, either our voters are confident he'll slide back over to third base or not confident that he'll end up picking the White Sox because our shortstop of the future is Tim Anderson.

Anderson is one of the few players on the major league roster who are long-term locks, and he's under contract for at least another four seasons, with team options for 2023 and 2024. It's what's made the ongoing pursuit of Machado so interesting because Machado supposedly prefers to play shortstop, where he played last season after spending much of his first six years as a big leaguer at third base. Now, he might end up with more than 200 million reasons to move back to third, where he's won a pair of Gold Gloves. And that could keep Anderson's development as a major league shortstop on track.

It was that defensive development that ended up being one of the brightest spots during 2018's 100-loss season. Anderson went from a whopping 28 errors in 2017 to 20 errors in 2018, and while that latter number is still a big one, Anderson was routinely making highlight-reel plays during the second half of last season. It seemed like he had turned a corner defensively, and one of the guys who helped him improve said the sky was the limit for a player who has consistently — and to this day, amid the Machado pursuit — been mentioned as someone whose future lies elsewhere on the diamond.

“I’d say (there’s been a growth) within the last two to three months,” White Sox bench coach Joe McEwing said in mid September. “He’s gone through a stage where he understands and he’s accountable for the mistakes he was making on the field. And now he’s able to sit back and learn from them and adjust, and he’s just running with it now.

“I believe he’s playing free. There’s not a weight on his shoulders. He wants to prove everybody wrong. (People say,) ‘He’s not a shortstop.’ He wants to prove that he is a shortstop and he’s one of the best in the game.”

“I kind of feel like the work finally caught up. I’m figuring out the glove and learning the position, figuring out how to play the position. It’s working, man,” Anderson said. “A lot of credit to Joe, he works with me every day and we get out there. It’s been good. Just honored and blessed to be in the position I’m in.”

Anderson made offensive improvements in 2018, too, hitting a career-high 20 home runs and a career-high 28 doubles. He scored a career-high 77 runs and drove in a career-high 64 runs and stole a career-high 26 bases (one of the top 15 totals in baseball) and walked a career-high 30 times (significant when compared to his previous two season totals of 13). All of those things are good things.

But Anderson slashed just .240/.281/.406. He still struck out 149 times (one of the top 30 totals in baseball). He still committed 20 errors (the fourth-highest total in baseball). And so there's work to do, especially offensively, if he's going to be a reliable part of a championship-caliber lineup.

That said, he will be given every opportunity to prove that over the next few years. The question is whether a Machado signing makes him a something else of the future. For now, however, he's the White Sox — and our — shortstop of the future.

Other vote-getters

Manny Machado. Unsurprisingly, the free-agent target got a number of votes as the shortstop of the future. There's much debate about which position he would play should he end up picking the White Sox. Ideally, he'd go back to third, where he's a two-time Gold Glover and could solve a question without a concrete answer for the team's long-term future. But Machado made much of his desire to play shortstop last season, perhaps with an eye on increasing his payday this winter. Once that payday is locked in, though, would he be OK with returning to third? That's the question. It wouldn't be illogical to suggest that if you're attempting to lure a player of this caliber to your team, you'd let him play whichever position he wanted. And if that ends up happening, then there's your answer: Machado is the shortstop of the future. It throws Anderson's future into question, but it puts a definitive stamp on the shortstop position.

Nick Madrigal. Madrigal has spent nearly every inning of his time as a White Sox minor leaguer at second base. Of course, he only played in 39 minor league games after being drafted in the first round last summer. He spent a lot of his time at Oregon State, however, as a shortstop, and it's there where the White Sox evaluated him as "the best all-around player in college baseball" and a potential Gold Glove caliber defender. Madrigal played at three different minor league levels last season and could be on the move quickly considering how experienced he already was coming out of college. If the White Sox miss out on Machado, the best defensive option at shortstop in just a couple years' time could be Madrigal. But the White Sox have talked about possibly moving Yoan Moncada from second base to third base, and among the reasons for doing so might be to clear room for Madrigal down the line. Who knows how Madrigal will end up comparing to Anderson — or what other names could be populating the White Sox infield by the time he reaches the major leagues — but Madrigal could be an option for shortstop one day, enough of one for a couple of our voters to pick him.

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White Sox Team of the Future: Center field

White Sox Team of the Future: Center field

What will the next championship-contending White Sox team look like?

That's what we're setting out to determine (or at least make a guess at) over the next few weeks. Ten members of our White Sox content team here at NBC Sports Chicago put our heads together to try to project what each position on the diamond would look like in one, two, three years. Basically, we posed the question: What will the White Sox starting lineup be the next time they're capable of playing in the World Series?

That question can have a bunch of different answers, too. We didn't limit ourselves to players currently a part of the organization. Think the White Sox are gonna make a big free-agent addition? Vote for that player. Think the White Sox are gonna pull off a huge trade? Vote for that player. We wanted to see some creativity.

While one voter got a little creative in center field, it was again a pretty easy choice: With nine of 10 votes, Luis Robert is our center fielder of the future.

Robert has been wowing folks with his athleticism and his ability on the baseball field since well before the White Sox signed him as a 19-year-old international free agent in 2017. The ball exploded off his bat during must-see batting-practice sessions with Eloy Jimenez and Micker Adolfo last spring. A little more than a year ago, Rick Renteria gave a nice summary of Robert's abilities — and got a lot of White Sox fans excited in the process.

“I saw Robert,” Renteria said at the 2017 Winter Meetings, “he’s a pretty impressive specimen. Listen, this kid can fly. I saw him run down to first I think it was like 3.56 after a full swing on a ground ball. He ran down a ball in center, right-center field effortlessly. He hit a ball against the wind and a gust into center, left-center field that I thought had no chance and it ended up going over the trees.”

And that was before Robert ever played a minor league game in the United States.

Last year, he finally did that, though he didn't play in as many as he would have liked, bothered by thumb injuries that delayed the start of his season until June and briefly put him on the shelf for almost the entire month of July. And the effects of those injuries were present in his end-of-season numbers: a .269/.333/.360 slash line with no homers and only 17 RBIs in just 50 games.

But Robert's promise popped up again this fall when he wowed during the Arizona Fall League, posting a .324/.367/.432 slash line with two homers, 10 RBIs and five stolen bases in 18 games.

Oh yeah, and he did this:


“I hear them in the dugout. They’re all at the top of the dugout when he comes up to hit, so that just tells you how they feel about him as well,” Class A Winston-Salem's hitting coach, Charlie Poe, told our Chuck Garfien in November. “I see them, I hear them in the dugout. ‘He’s up! He’s up! What’s he going to do? How far is he going to hit it?’”

That's an accurate assessment of White Sox fans' excitement level, too. And given the ability with the glove, with the bat, on the base paths, Robert seems like a lock to be the center fielder of the future.

Other vote-getters

Tim Anderson (1). Yes, someone on our crew envisions the White Sox current starting shortstop finding his way to the outfield one day. Be that because of a free-agent arrival who pushes him to a new position (cough, cough, Manny Machado, cough, cough) or the ascent of last year's first-round pick, Nick Madrigal, Anderson might have to end up switching to a different spot. Being the team player he is, he likely wouldn't mind it. But his improvement at shortstop was one of the high points of the developmental 2018 season. He's an athletic guy, perhaps giving one of our voters reason to believe Anderson can pull off being a major league center fielder.

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Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

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USA TODAY

Is the White Sox third baseman of the future already on the major league roster?

The White Sox future at third base is a pretty big unknown.

Jake Burger is only a year and a half removed from being a first-round draft pick, but the double Achilles tear earlier this year has not just derailed his 2018 but thrown his entire future, and with it the White Sox future at the hot corner, into question. How will the injuries affect Burger's timeline to the majors? How will it affect his ability to play third base?

Those questions and the seeming lack of any other high-end third-base prospect in the White Sox system have made it seem rather obvious that the rebuilding White Sox third baseman of the future currently isn't a part of the organization.

The free-agent lists White Sox fans are salivating over have some pretty intriguing names on them. Josh Donaldson and Manny Machado, who wants to play shortstop but is a two-time Gold Glove winner at third, are free agents this winter. So are less-heralded guys like Mike Moustakas and Marwin Gonzalez, who counts third baseman as one of his many job titles for the Houston Astros. Nolan Arenado and Anthony Rendon are free agents the following offseason. Those are big names, any one of which could be a cherry on top for the White Sox as they plan to shift from rebuilding to contending.

But what if the White Sox already have their third baseman of the future? What if he's already on the major league roster?

No, sorry, this isn't about Yolmer Sanchez. It's about Yoan Moncada, to which you might react thusly: "Wait a minute. Yoan Moncada is a second baseman! Learn to count your bases, Duber!"

My rarely utilized math skills aside, Moncada switching positions has been a bit of a talking point for a little while now, and it has far more to do with what's going on in the farm system than it has to do with Moncada's 2018 season in the major leagues.

The White Sox spent their first-round draft pick on a middle infielder in June despite having two supposed long-term pieces in Moncada and Tim Anderson already playing in the big leagues. Nick Madrigal's versatility on the infield was part of the praise the White Sox heaped on him after making him the No. 4 pick in the draft, but for a guy who's been discussed as a Gold Glove type of defender at either second base or shortstop, it kind of seems like that would be the best place to put him. Now, Madrigal's not exactly knocking on the doors of the major leagues, yet to play his first full season of pro ball, but the White Sox dubbed him the "best all-around player in college baseball" this summer, leading one to believe that his development could move along quickly enough to get him to the majors by the time that much-anticipated shift from rebuilding to contending happens.

If that's the case, either Moncada or Anderson would have to move, right? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe the White Sox end up liking Madrigal at third or elsewhere, but he's playing middle infield in the minor leagues.

Anderson moving to the outfield was a favorite suggestion of White Sox Twitter after he led baseball with 28 fielding errors in 2017. He made 20 more in 2018 (fourth most in baseball), but his defensive improvement by the end of the season was one of the biggest positives to take from the 100-loss campaign.

"That’s the thing that really jumps out the most in terms of significant progress he’s made," Rick Hahn said of Anderson's defense during his end-of-season press conference last month. "He’s managed to capitalize on the athleticism we’ve always seen from him and convert that into being a potentially, frankly Gold Glove-caliber defensive shortstop based on what we’ve seen over the last few months.

"This is really a testament in the end to Tim Anderson’s work ethic. He knew it was an area that he wanted to improve, whether it was because he wanted to show people wrong or because he knew he wanted to make himself a stalwart at that position and eliminate the rumors about position change. He worked extraordinarily hard both with Joe McEwing and the things he did on his own, and the kid deserves a world of credit and I think it bodes very well for him continuing on the trajectory of becoming an impact shortstop."

It doesn't sound like Hahn is describing a guy who will be moving away from his position any time soon.

Moncada racked up a good deal of errors at second base in his first full season in the majors — 21 of them, to be exact, the third most in baseball — but Hahn and Rick Renteria both said they noticed improvement from Moncada in the field. But Moncada did tell the Sun-Times' Daryl Van Schouwen during the season that he would be willing to make a position switch if the team wanted him to do it.

Hahn got a similar question during his year-end press conference. Though the general manager wasn't directly asked if Moncada would make a position switch, Hahn said Moncada could defend well at other positions on the diamond and that if such a change were desired, the team would probably make it sooner rather than later.

"It’s conceivable if we made a decision as an organization to try him elsewhere that we would do it as soon as this offseason or next spring training, you’d see it in action," Hahn said. "I do think he has made a great deal of process at second base. I also think he has the athleticism also to be an above-average defender at other positions, too. It’s a subject for further conversation, but as he sits here today, I am pleased with the progress and the pitch-to-pitch focus and the athleticism, the arm strength and foot movement and his hands at second base."

White Sox fans aren't super high on Moncada being the savior of anything, not just third base, right now after his disappointing 2018 season: a .235/.315/.400 slash line and 217 strikeouts, the fourth-highest single-season total in major league history. But that's not souring the White Sox on his potential, and it's not changing what they think he can be.

By 2020 or 2021, perhaps Moncada's evolution as a big league ballplayer puts him on a similar level as some of the free-agent names mentioned above. Perhaps he's already playing third base by then with Madrigal on the major league infield, too.

The White Sox seem to have a hole at third base, with popular opinion being that it can only be filled by a marquee free agent. Maybe it does get filled this offseason — by a guy standing about 100 feet away.