Anderson at the forefront of White Sox's youth movement
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Two years ago, the Chicago White Sox signed 37-year-old shortstop Jimmy Rollins to a contract a week into spring training.
There was hardly a flinch among the fanbase.
For too many years, the Rollins signing represented how the White Sox tackled roster building.
The few quality prospects that came through the Sox's minor-league system were either traded or rushed to the majors, and washed-up veterans were brought in from the outside to plug the holes.
Rollins was the latest in a long line of disappointments -- he was released in mid-June after posting a .221/.295/.329 hitting line in 41 games with the White Sox.
Looking back, there was actually a happy ending to this ongoing sad story.
The day Rollins was cut loose, Tim Anderson joined the White Sox from Class AAA Charlotte. The promotion signaled a needed change in direction, and general manager Rick Hahn launched a full-blown rebuild the following month, trading veteran relief pitcher Zach Duke to the Cardinals for outfield prospect Charlie Tilson.
Anderson was the first in a rapidly extending line of young players to occupy a spot on the Sox's 25-man roster, and his growing pains have been both obvious and expected.
In 2016, Anderson slashed .283/.306/.432 with 22 doubles, 6 triples, 9 home runs, 30 RBI and 10 stolen bases in 99 games, good for a seventh-place finish in American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Anderson noticeably slipped last season, slashing .257/.276/.402 with 26 doubles, 4 triples, 17 homers, 56 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 146 games.
True, opposing teams that got their first look at Anderson in 2016 made adjustments last year, taking advantage of the 24-year-old infielder's overly aggressive approach at the plate.
But Anderson was dealing with outside issues as well.
In May, his best friend was murdered back home in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Anderson also started wearing glasses in June.
Anderson was also probably trying a little too hard after signing a six-year, $25 million contract toward the end of spring training.
Over the first half of last season, Anderson batted .240 and was a defensive disaster at shortstop.
In the second half, he hit .276 and was vastly improved with the glove.
Going through such a difficult season took a toll on Anderson, but he learned from it and reported to the White Sox's training camp this spring in a much better frame of mind.
"This is the most comfortable I've been," Anderson said. "I'm talking more, smiling more. I'm in a great position. So honored and humbled and excited to be in the position I am."
Anderson is excited for the upcoming season, and so are the Sox.
Last September, he batted .339 and made one sparkling defensive play after another.
Anderson's improved play in the field was especially uplifting, given the importance of the shortstop position.
He finished the 2017 season with the most errors (28) in baseball, but Anderson made just 6 fielding miscues over his final 65 games.
"When we drafted Tim Anderson the first thing you would hear some scouts or objective analysts say was, 'I don't know if he's a shortstop,'" Hahn said. "After the first year it switched to, 'He hasn't really shown me anything to say he's not a shortstop, but I don't know if he is.'
"And after the second full season it was, 'Yeah, he's a shortstop.' It takes some time for guys to show you who they are."