GLENDALE, Ariz. – Suggest to shortstop Tim Anderson that spring training is merely a second up-close look-see for the White Sox’ top prospect and you can almost see him biting his tongue.
Anderson, 22, is here to win a job, and while there’s a much better chance of becoming the starter at shortstop a year from now, he is going to do everything in his power to plant more seeds before going back to AAA Charlotte for more seasoning. If he continues to make the encouraging strides taken on a climb since the Sox drafted him 17th overall in the 2013 draft, Anderson could be in the major league mix during the second half of this season.
“I’m ready for spring training,” Anderson said. “I’m excited. Whatever they have planned for me, I’m willing to do. We’ll see what happens.’’
These are in fact exciting, busy times for the Alabama native. Anderson and his fiancé are expecting a daughter in March. So needless to say, he will have plenty on his mind during Sox camp.
Becoming a husband. Becoming a father. And, in his view, becoming a big-leaguer ASAP.
“I worry about what I can control and try not to get too much into details,’’ he said. “Just stay within myself. I’m very excited. This is all very special.’’
“Special” describes the talents of Anderson, a late baseball bloomer who focused on basketball and didn’t play the sport as a freshman and sophomore in high school. After one year of junior college, he wasn’t even drafted. After his second, he was a first-rounder. Now, he is the Sox’ top prospect with star-power potential.
“I played Little League baseball and all that but I never had a favorite team or player and I wasn’t a big baseball guy, so I was kind of behind. Now I am [a big baseball guy].’’
Because of Anderson’s looming presence in a farm system that’s been short on producing position players, the availability of free agent shortstop Ian Desmond has been viewed with controlled desires. Tyler Saladino, a capable defender, will likely be the shortstop for the now.
But it’s Anderson’s job in the future, no matter what the skeptics say about his defense. The Sox say it’s coming, a large sum of 25 errors at AA Birmingham in 2015 notwithstanding. There are fewer experts suggesting a position change as his defense stays on an improving, if not yet polished path.
In the meantime, the doubts about his glove continue to fuel Anderson’s determination to make himself better.
“Keeps me hungry,’’ Anderson said.
A slash line of .312/.350/.429 and blazing speed used for 12 triples and 49 stolen bases (in 62 attempts) at AA Birmingham point to the aggressive (he doesn’t walk much) right-handed hitter’s offensive skill that will be on display again this spring. So will the defense, which didn’t look so good a year ago when Anderson made two glove errors against the Dodgers in his first Cactus League game.
All told, all signs point to AAA Charlotte as the next stop. As needy as the Sox are to plug young homegrown talent into their 25-man roster, they won’t push too hard or fast.
“It’s a jump,’’ general manager Rick Hahn said of the slim possibility of Anderson making the club out of spring training. “He was one of the younger players in the Southern League last year. And despite how solid his performance was, to expect him to make that jump this quickly is also a high bar to ask him to clear.
“We want everyone in big league camp to act as if they have a chance to make the team and compete for the club … At the same time he’s had a pretty clear development path to date and if he stuck with that plan the next plan would be at Charlotte.’’