I want to start doing some deep dives on player profiles as the season progresses. Now that we are in our fourth week of the season, many statistics begin to stabilize. We can start weeding out some players who had hot starts and find out whether you can drop, hold, or buy these players. The first player I’ll write on is Tim Anderson.
If you slept on Tim Anderson this off-season, please do yourself a favor and check out his category juice to date. I wouldn’t worry about the 5 RBI total, focus in on the power-speed combination. He’s currently ranked second in the league in combined HR + steals with 11 with Mike Trout (of course) leading the way with 14. Not bad for a guy drafted after 175 overall in most drafts this off-season. I was guilty of being off Anderson coming into 2018 mostly due to his 24.6% K-BB rate. No, that’s not his strikeout rate, it’s his strikeout rate after you subtract his walk rate! What’s changed with Anderson this year? The guy who only stole 15 bases in 2017 in over 600 plate appearances now has eight in less than 20 games.
Anderson did steal 49 bases back in 2015 in Double-A and totaled 95 steals in 331 minor league games. That’s about one steal every 3.5 games. Anderson only attempted 16 steals in 2017 and was successful on all but one. Ok, so a 94% success rate is pretty good. The White Sox aren’t winning this year (and most likely next year) so why not get aggressive on the bases? I like the aggressive approach from Manager Ricky Renteria with some of the young athletes the Sox have, that includes Yoan Moncada who is getting hot of late. It’s clear that Anderson has been given the green light evidenced by a stealing a base when down by four runs in the ninth inning of a ball game. Or when he attempted to steal third in a five-run game with Justin Verlander on the mound. This one is just funny. Fantasy owners are going to be just fine with this aggressive approach.
Let’s check out Statcast speed scores. Anderson is tied for 9th best in the league with the usual suspects near the top like Buxton, Hamilton, Gordon, Trevor Story….. Wait, what?? I better dig deeper on Story, but that’s for another day. Part of the issue in 2017 with Anderson was his lack of on-base skills. His .276 OBP was the worst for any leadoff hitter and ranked third from the bottom among qualified hitters. This year, that awful 2.1% BB rate currently sits at 9.0%. Now, that’s only seven walks, but that’s just six less than all of 2017. Is this walk rate for real?
Not quite. He’s simply swinging just about as much as ever, he has cut down on his O-Swing (or chase rate) a bit but has actually seen more first-pitch strikes. So he’s working from behind more often than he has in the past. The only reason I can muster is the fact that he’s swinging and missing more which of course means his contact rate is down. In reality, this could help his walk rate but should also be a hindrance to his strikeout rate which is actually down about 5% this year. Based on this information, I expect a steep decline in walks going forward, which is bad for his stolen bases.
We haven’t talked about the power yet. In those 331 minor leagues games mentioned earlier, Anderson popped a total of 19 homers. He’s already got 29 bombs in 260 Major League games and three early this year. I believe in his power production, he’s increased his fly ball percentage each of the last three seasons. He currently has an average exit velocity of 93.8 mph on his fly balls and line drives and has barreled nearly 7% of his batted balls. Compare that to last year’s 91.4 mph EV on his FB+LD and only 3.6% of his batted balls were barreled. I know it’s early, but Anderson looks a lot like a 20 homer hitter to me.
This is where shizz gets sexy! We now know that the 20 homer pop is legit based on the increased fly ball rate, increased hard contact, and his pull percentage which currently at 54% (typically around 42%). This leads me to believe that an improvement from his 14.4% HR/FB rate in 2017 should improve to somewhere between 15-18%. Given about 600 plate appearances, I see 21 dingers from Timmy. Oh, and those steals. Well, given a high ground ball rate and his foot speed, the .294 BABIP should jump up little to somewhere between .325-.335 giving him a .260-.270 batting average. The OBP should sit around .300 which isn’t great but better than 2017.
The positive outlook for Anderson in terms of steals is there because he’s attempting a steal about 30% of his possible opportunities. That’s a blistering pace to keep up, it’s basically a Billy Hamilton-type pace. Even if we drop that to a more realistic 20%-22%, he should push 35-42 SB attempts, call it 38. At a 75% success rate, that’s 29 steals to go along with his 21 HR. Ok, so we have Byron Buxton from 2017 with these projections.
While these are clearly realistic projections, I tend to believe they are more in the range of a 75% projection. That being said, those numbers push top 50 overall and even something similar to last year’s 17 homers with an uptick to about 25 steals means a solid bargain for what owners paid on draft day. I’d be buying for a reasonable price especially if you need speed.