Why 2015 Will Be Tim Anderson’s Breakout Year

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Chicago White Sox shortstop prospect Tim Anderson is already on the map. However, 2015 could be the year he finally crosses the radar of the casual fan, similar to the type of name recognition an Addison Russell brings with the Chicago Cubs.

Anderson checks in at No. 76 on MLBPipeline’s Top 100 prospects list, and at No. 2 on most White Sox organizational prospect rankings. Baseball Prospectus ranked Anderson No. 1, ahead of Carlos Rodon, in their most recent rankings, which goes to show just how high some pundits are on the 2013 first-rounder.

Anderson has the potential to be a 5-tool player, with a few of those tools clocking in above average. His loudest tool is undoubtedly his speed, which has a 70-grade rating per MLBPipeline, while his hit, arm, and field tools all check in at 55, which is slightly above the average grade mark of 50 on the 20-80 future tools scale.

His only sub par tool is his power, which Pipeline has at 40, but the outlet does note a reason to be optimistic:

"“Anderson has a quick bat and some wiry strength, so he could develop some gap power.”"

In my opinion, this “gap power” has already begun to appear in Anderson’s stat lines, as he hit 18 doubles and seven triples at the Single-A level over 68 games at Winston-Salem. Not to mention, six balls left the park entirely.

Anderson’s shown a propensity to hit for a high average, as he owns a .301 career mark in the minors. His career .327 in-base percentage is low, especially for a player who stands to benefit from reaching first and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. With the addition of base stealing specialist Vince Coleman to the White Sox’s coaching staff, I expect Anderson to hone his speed game even more this season.

Anderson has 70-grade speed, which makes him a weapon on the basepaths

The low OBP has a lot to do with Anderson’s ability to reach first base via the free pass, as his walk rate was a meager 2.3 percent in Winston-Salem last year. If he could improve that rate considerably in 2015, I think his overall value would skyrocket.

Anderson was extremely raw entering pro ball, but I think his hit tool is finally looking more refined. The concern lies more on the defensive end, in which his defense leaves a lot to be desired as he had an alarming .897 fielding percentage at Winston-Salem in ’14.

I’m still optimistic that Anderson’s elite speed will play on the other side of the ball, in the form of positional range, and he’s competent in his half of the double play combo as he turned 40 of them over two levels last season.

MLBPipeline seems to think he can made defensive strides at the position as they believe:

"“Anderson has the actions, range and arm to play short, and he has the work ethic to make the necessary refinements.”"

While some scouts feel Anderson is better suited in centerfield, Adam Eaton has a strong hold on that spot, and Anderson’s value is certainly maximized if he can play at the premium infield position in the middle of the diamond.

Looking at Tim Anderson, I think he’s actually quite underrated as a prospect. Russell of the Chicago Cubs is consistently touted by all major outlets, but his hitting, fielding, and arm tools are marginally close to Anderson’s.

February 25, 2015; Mesa, AZ, USA; Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell (75) fields ground balls during a spring training workout at Sloan Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

While Russell certainly has the upper hand defensively, and will surely sport more in-game home run power, Anderson trumps him in speed, as Russell only grades out at 55 in that area.

Russell is more polished than Anderson at the moment, but I believe the stage is being set for the White Sox and Cubs to host a rivalry at the position, with hopefully both players competing to earn superstar status in Chicago.

Anderson shined in the Arizona Fall League this offseason posting a .301/.343/.430 line over 23 games, while he was facing some of the more premier talent in the minors.

Spring Training will be Anderson’s first opportunity to show what he can do against big league pitching, and I think a hot spring will encourage the White Sox to send him to Triple-A-Charlotte at some point in the year, with the possibility of a September call-up not out of the question.

Last year saw Anderson miss two months to a fractured wrist, and I think ’15 will finally be the year Anderson can show what he can do for a full season, which I think will enable him to escalate on league wide prospect rankings.

Feb 28, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Chicago White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez poses for a portrait during photo day at Camelback Ranch. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The fact is, Anderson is only 21 years-old and the White Sox have the luxury of having a $10 million 2016 team option for incumbent Alexei Ramirez, should Anderson need another year to shore up his defense.

Anderson is the most exciting position player the White Sox have had in their farm system for some time, and I think Rick Hahn views him as the key to achieving the sustained success the front office has been advertising since the 2013 season.

If keeping the window open beyond ’15 is a priority, then I have a hard time believing Anderson will be in trade talks at the upcoming deadline. If someone like Johnny Cueto is available as a two-month rental on July 31, then I think the inclusion of Anderson is what will keep Hahn from pulling the trigger.

Anderson is key to the sustained success advertised by the front office

The truth is that if Anderson is healthy and capitalizes on what should be his first full season in the minors, then this will open up the White Sox’s ability to deal Ramirez next offseason, which will enable them to continue adding to this young core they’re trying to build.

The prospect of having speedsters Micah Johnson and Anderson in the 2016 lineup might be too tantalizing to pass up.

While, I fully expect the White Sox to sacrifice young talent for a playoff berth in ’15 if they are in the race at the deadline, I think Anderson will be what keeps the White Sox from reverting to old ways and completely ignoring the future for the present.

As it stands, 2015 is the year Anderson can go from an organizational top prospect to truly elite status, finally giving the White Sox a position player in their system to write home about.

Next: How should Carlos Rodon be used in '15?

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