One might assume that Tim Anderson, who led all of baseball in batting average this season and accumulated a .335/.357/.508 line with 3.5 fWAR in 123 games, has reached his ceiling. Over a full season, Anderson was on a 4.7 fWAR pace, which would have been 25th best in baseball among position players, trailing only the superstar Yoan Moncada among White Sox players. While such a season would certainly be terrific for Anderson in 2020 and beyond, he still is a candidate for substantial improvement.
Anderson had a .399 BABIP this year, a fact that will be lazily tossed around regularly this offseason by detractors. A number that high is unsustainable, but it would be foolish to assume that Anderson’s BABIP is going to suddenly nosedive towards the league-average .300 mark. MLB.com’s Mike Petriello kindly informed me about the existence of xBABIP, which estimates what a hitter’s BABIP should be when you factor in their contact quality, speed, and other factors we have long used to determine whether or not a player’s BABIP is fluky.
Tim Anderson’s xBABIP was .353. Obviously, this suggests that he still was the beneficiary of some luck in 2019, but being 53 points above the league average is certainly a positive. If his future offense takes a slight step back or remains what it currently is, what is this “new level” he could be working towards?
What many seem to forget in discussions about Anderson is that he was a very good defensive shortstop in 2018, especially during the second half of the season. He struggled with some errors early, but finished the year grading as a top-10 defensive shortstop. Given that he undoubtedly has not lost any of his athleticism since then, there is no reason to think that his 2019 defense will not be improved upon. If Anderson can defend like he did in 2018, he could go from a ~4 WAR player in the near future to a ~6 WAR player. He would join Yoan Moncada and, hopefully, Luis Robert in the conversation of most valuable player on the team.
TA7 is ridiculous pic.twitter.com/15PJxCuubR— Sox On 35th (@SoxOn35th) August 24, 2019
Of course, an underlying assumption here is that Anderson’s offense will either remain stagnant or drop off slightly. At 26 years old, Anderson could also learn how to tap into his power more often and eventually get even better at the plate. For the time being, however, the priority for Anderson should be consistency. He has flashed great defense over significant samples, and more recently has shown terrific offense. If he can remain consistent at both facets, he could make the jump from all-star caliber player to MVP-caliber player.
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