COMMENTARY | With the 17th pick in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Chicago White Sox selected East Central Community College's Tim Anderson. Anderson is a speedy shortstop who led NJCAA Division II baseball in batting average and on base percentage at .495 and .568, respectively. His .879 slugging percentage placed second in the league while his 41 stolen bases placed fifth.
While the numbers are gaudy, it is worth taking them with a grain of salt as the level of play in Mississippi-based junior colleges is not exceptionally high. How did Anderson, a first round caliber talent, end up at an unheard of junior college program? He missed both his sophomore and junior high school baseball seasons due to an injury and his basketball team's state title run. This means he is rather inexperienced, but also that his recent rise to prominence was due to lack of exposure, not a flash in the pan after years of poor play.
The most obvious concern, nonetheless, is his overall lack of experience and the fact that he has not matched up against other players of his caliber on any consistent sort of basis. Given his relatively young age and this inexperience, look for him to start at rookie level ball where other high school players and less well-regarded college players often fill out the rosters. The bigger question will be whether his short season this year will be good enough for him to be ready to play at the A level next season; otherwise, he will have to spend half the season in extended spring training waiting for the rookie ball squads to start up after the draft.
Anderson was widely considered the second-best shortstop in the draft after J.P. Crawford, who was taken the pick before by Philadelphia. He is a tough player to predict for the experts because he was not a highly-regarded prep prospect and was still more or less off the map after his solid freshman season at East Central. Most uncertainty results from concerns about his competition. In my opinion, he was a more exciting and safer prospect than Crawford, but many others would disagree.
The obvious best tool for Anderson is his speed. He was successful in 41 out of 47 attempts at stolen bases this season and was a perfect 30 for 30 as a freshman. While he is not necessarily a freak speed-wise, it is a huge asset and he could become a 40 stolen base player at the next level. Expect the White Sox to push him aggressively on the basepaths as they have with prospect Micah Johnson, who has 47 stolen bases in 55 games at A-level Kannapolis. For the near term in the minor leagues, do not be alarmed if Anderson does not have a tremendous success rate as he steals because it is customary to push a young basestealer to really push the boundaries to learn his own limitations.
Defensively, reviews are mixed. While there are no reports that his defense is poor, his arm strength is commonly cited as a potential cause for a move to second base or the outfield. He is generally considered a solid defender with an average arm that needs more repetitions at a high level before conclusions can be drawn about his defense. At the least, he appears to have the athleticism and baseball skills to become a great centerfielder.
At the plate, White Sox fans will be relieved to hear that Anderson's contact tool is solid. While the caveat as with everything else is the level of his competition, it is highly unlikely that Anderson becomes a high strikeout player. He has the potential to become a very high contact player and has done a good job of putting the ball in play and letting his speed do the work in college. As you may have noticed with his high slugging percentage, both his speed and a little bit of raw power make for quite a few extra base hits. Time will tell whether his power will project as he is only 6'1" and 180 pounds, but he should at least avoid Juan Pierre territory when it comes to power.
Overall, the White Sox did not stray far from their draft philosophy with Anderson. He is raw and athletic, as have been many recent draft picks. On the bright side, however, he will be a player that can make contact and plays a premium position at shortstop. His style of play would suggest that he has a high floor, but the level of competition he has seen makes me hesitant to call him a high floor player. His ceiling is fairly high though, as he could be a decent fielding shortstop with flashes of power, a high on base percentage, and a good deal of stolen bases.
Look for more coverage of the White Sox draft selections in the coming days here at Yahoo! Sports.
Jacob Long, a native to the Chicago area, is a writer for the Yahoo! Contributor Network. He has experience covering sports and news for WMC-TV in Memphis, TN and has contributed to sports blogs such as The Flapship . Follow him on Twitter @jlongrc .
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