Word on the street was that the White Sox targeted middle infielders leading up to the draft. Fact replaced rumor when the White Sox selected Tim Anderson with the 17th overall pick Thursday night.
Anderson, a juco shortstop out of East Central Community College in Mississippi, was a popular pick -- even if secondary -- for the Sox in mock drafts for a number of reasons. He was considered one of only two true first-round shortstops who could actually stick at the position thanks to his athleticism. His game is built on speed, which could allow him to move to center if needed.
It's an upside selection, because he doesn't have a long track record. He was named an NJCAA Division All-American this season for this resume...
Anderson led the nation in batting with a .495 average. He belted 10 home runs, 11 triples and 18 doubles, and was among the top run producers with 45 RBIs. He finished second in stolen bases with 41 and led in runs scored with 62.
... but that's against junior college competition. He's only 19 (he turns 20 June 23), and he split time in high school between baseball and basketball. A knee injury in the latter sport prevented him from making the high school team until his junior year, but he proved to be a quick study, first in left field before moving to shortstop.
The lack of long-running or high-caliber experience means evaluations vary wildly.
He has followed up by showing solid power this spring to go with his other prodigious tools. Anderson stands out in a draft class light on middle infielders. Scouts aren't sold that he'll stick at shortstop thanks to average arm strength. He has middle-infield actions and needs repetition at the pro level to see where he'll stick. His athleticism and plus-plus speed would play in center field.
He has a very quick but mostly flat swing, with virtually no load and just some late hip rotation, so he can slap the ball all over but isn't well set up to drive it in any direction. He drifts a little on to his front foot as well, although if he were more rotational that wouldn't be a major obstacle to hitting for at least more doubles power.
But if you're looking a little more optimism, Scout.com had him ranked No. 11:
The tools are for real: plus-plus speed, potential average raw power that already shows up in games and to the opposite field, plus bat speed, above average arm strength and true shortstop actions. Some scouts speculate the industry was slow to come around on him due to an industry bias against Juco players and area scouts embarrassed they didn't even turn this player in last year.
Reaction from the parties involved
The White Sox certainly think he has more than speed to offer. From Doug Laumann:
"Tim is a very athletic player who, although we didn’t target a specific position, certainly fits a need in the middle of the diamond. He is an exciting top-of-the-order type player who is a game-changer with great ability to create offense at a key position on the field. Tim was the best player available, and we couldn’t be more happy."
Anderson isn't lacking for confidence. When asked to describe the MLB player he thinks he can be most comparable to on the conference call: "I'll say Jose Reyes. I think we have the same tool package. I'm tough to beat, and I'm giving it my all every play. "
What's interesting is that Anderson played ball in the same area as Billy Hamilton, who set stolen-base records in the Cincinnati Reds organization last year. That brings up an easy parallel, but Anderson's coach thought it was too easy:
"I saw Billy Hamilton when he was growing up in this area and let’s get real here—Billy Hamilton wishes he’ll ever be able to hit like Tim Anderson can right now," East Central coach Neal Holliman said.
Likewise and unsurprisingly, Holliman is equally sold on Anderson's glove at shortstop:
"I’ll be nice as I can be when I say that if any professional team is thinking of moving Tim Anderson to the outfield, they’re completely insane," Holliman said. "They’re simply not watching the same player I am and everybody else is watching."
Anderson said that ironing out his defensive mechanics was his top priority, but said he would be able to hold his ground at shortstop. Although he has a commitment to UAB, he expects to sign soon.
Here's a little more background (hat tip to Colin):
Anderson's game in his own words
From the conference call:
"I'm not a complete player yet but one day in the White Sox organization I will be."
"A lot of people doubt me as a shortstop but I'm gonna prove them wrong and show them I can stay at short."
"I'll describe myself not a power guy, but a gap-to-gap guy and the potential to have a lot of power as I get stronger, and I don't swing and miss a whole lot."