White Sox

Tim Anderson's hot start is about more than just batting average: 'He's a five-tool guy'

Tim Anderson's hot start is about more than just batting average: 'He's a five-tool guy'

Tim Anderson is leading baseball in batting average, his clip up to .453 after a three-hit night Monday on the South Side. He's hit in all seven games he's played at Guaranteed Rate Field this season, picking up multiple hits in six of them.

Updating Anderson's scorching start to the 2019 campaign is no breaking news to White Sox fans, who through their team's 6-9 beginning to the season have been laser focused on Anderson as the team's brightest spot. But as a good deal of attention goes toward that one stat — deservedly so, considering it's almost .030 points better than the second best hitter in baseball — other successes might be slipping past some fans and observers, things that point to an even brighter future for the White Sox and their starting shortstop than his Ted Williams style start at the plate.

"He's a five-tool guy. There's no way of looking beyond that, he's a five-tool guy," manager Rick Renteria said after Monday's win over the visiting Kansas City Royals. "He can hit for power, he can hit for average, he can field, he can throw, he can run."

Yes, Anderson can indeed do those things, and those skills without the bat in his hand were on display in Monday's victory. He hustled home from second on what was initially ruled an inning-ending double play but then overturned into a run-scoring fielder's choice. That tally was the White Sox first of the game and the beginning of the crawl out of a 3-0 hole. By the end of that fifth inning, the game was tied.

Anderson couldn't prevent Manny Banuelos from issuing a leadoff walk to Billy Hamilton in the seventh, and the Royals' speedster flew by Welington Castillo's errant throw at second base and scored the go-ahead run a few pitches later. Anderson did, though, corral a Castillo throw in the top of the eighth and make an artful tag on the foot of a would-be Kansas City base stealer. In the bottom of that eighth, he smoked a leadoff double off the left-field wall and was aboard when Castillo lifted the game-winning home run over the right-field fence, flipping a White Sox deficit into a White Sox lead that stuck.

Unsurprisingly, Anderson was at the center of the White Sox victory. He's been at the center of the last couple of those. You'll recall his grand slam Sunday afternoon in The Bronx while many of us sat shivering in Chicago. Monday, he heated the South Side up with an array of talents, the latest display of the work he constantly points to as the source of his power in this smoking-hot start to the season.

"It's very important," Anderson replied when asked how important it is for him to be a five-tool player. "I've been working since I got here. These guys feed off my energy, so it's my goal to show up and be ready every day and get this team going.

"I didn't think it was going to be like this. But I'm going to continue to work and try not to let that get to my head. Just block out all the noise and continue to be me and keep having fun, bring a lot of energy to this squad."

It wasn't too long ago that some of the same folks cheering on Anderson's successful start were trying to usher him out of the long-term picture on the South Side. Manny Machado was out there to be had, and importing a four-time All Star would be a premium addition at shortstop, even if that meant moving Anderson elsewhere — on the field or in the league. Anderson wasn't so sure. He told Our Chuck Garfien at SoxFest that while he'd like to play alongside Machado, "shortstop is mine."

"I don’t feel like I have to bow down to nobody. I don’t feel like I just have to give something up what I worked hard for. I would love to play with him, but shortstop is mine," Anderson said in January. "I came too far for these fans to kind of just want me to give it to Machado. I don’t think that’s right, but at the end of the day, I get it. I see both sides, so that’s why I’m here to try and win a championship. The White Sox have been nothing but good to me, so I give them nothing but respect by what they have going on."

To his credit, Anderson's defensive improvement at shortstop was one of the highlights of last year's 100-loss campaign, an improvement everyone, including infield coach Joe McEwing, attributed to Anderson's work.

"I kind of challenged him and said, 'I’m extremely proud of the progress you’ve made, let’s not stop, let’s not stop here, let’s take it to another level,'" McEwing said last year. "'You say you want to be the best. What does that entail, as far as work-wise, maturity-wise, leadership-wise?' I challenge him every day to be that leader, take over the infield, make sure everybody’s in the right spot, communicate constantly with each other. And he’s taken it to that level."

There were plenty of questions surrounding Anderson, independent of Machado, this offseason and during spring training. His defensive improvement was great, same with his 20 home runs and 26 stolen bases in 2018. But this was a guy who slashed just .240/.281/.406 last season. Was that enough to keep him entrenched as the no-doubt shortstop of the future?

There's a lot of 2019 left to go, and hot starts don't always equal season-long success. But so far, Anderson is proving folks wrong once again. Proving that people were wrong to be willing to brush him aside for Machado, wrong to doubt that he will be the shortstop on the next contending White Sox team.

"I kind of knew that off the rip, I was going to be the shortstop," Anderson said Monday night. "I've just been working and determined and confident. Just keep improving. I know how good I want to be, so I don't need nobody to motivate me. I motivate myself. I want to work hard and continue to be me."

Given the small sample sizes, that's the right idea: to keep working, to not be satisfied with just an electric start. Anderson wants an electric season. But everything we've seen from him so far in 2019 has gone toward answering those preseason questions.

Anderson is here. He's hitting. He's running. He's fielding. He's tagging. He's got five tools, and he's using them to prove everyone wrong.

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Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Eloy Jimenez returns to White Sox a little more than three weeks after spraining ankle

Things looked grim when Eloy Jimenez, the White Sox top-ranked prospect and a centerpiece of the South Side rebuilding plans, was down in pain on the warning track.

But a little more than three weeks later, Jimenez is back in the lineup, returned from his stay on the injured list for the start of a four-game series against the Houston Astros.

Jimenez made a leaping attempt to catch a home-run ball in the April 26 game against the Detroit Tigers. In the process, his foot got stuck in the padding of the left-field wall, and the 22-year-old suffered a high ankle sprain. He limped off the field and needed help getting into the dugout and clubhouse. Thoughts of "here we go again" flashed through a fan base that's watched top prospects suffer one significant injury after another in recent seasons.

The White Sox said Jimenez would be reevaluated in a couple weeks, while cursory Google searches revealed recovery times of more than a month for this type of injury.

But Jimenez seems to have healed quickly. He went on a minor league rehab assignment last week, playing in five games with Triple-A Charlotte before being deemed ready to return Monday.

This is phenomenal news for the White Sox and their fans, of course, who in the time Jimenez has been sidelined have seen another key piece go down with Carlos Rodon's Tommy John surgery. Jimenez hasn't got off to the rip-roaring start some predicted — he's slashed .241/.294/.380 with a trio of home runs in his first 21 major league games — but all playing time for the youngster is good playing time as he continues his development in his first big league season. Throw in Jimenez's four-game stay on the bereavement list prior to that game against Detroit, and he's had just one at-bat since April 21.

So maybe expect some rust, and manager Rick Renteria said Jimenez could perhaps be eased back with a game at DH here and there as he continues to work on improving his defense in left field.

Jimenez did go 7-for-22 (a .318 batting average) with a homer and a double in his rehab stint in Charlotte. Now he's back in the major league outfield, a good thing for everyone following along with this rebuild.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: What has James McCann meant to the White Sox? Everything

Chuck Garfien and Vinnie Duber talk about James McCann's breakout season with the White Sox (1:15).

Then Chuck speaks with McCann about all the preparation he does for every game (9:20), why he'll never use a cheat sheet scouting report behind the plate like many catchers do (11:30) and what McCann has been badgering Lucas Giolito about since spring training (14:30).

Plus, why Evan Marshall and Aaron Bummer have been so successful out of the bullpen (16:30), why McCann acts as a karaoke host on the team bus (17:40) and more.

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below.

White Sox Talk Podcast

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