CHICAGO -- Remember when the book on Francisco Lindor was that he was a magician in the field and a smart baserunner, but suspect as a hitter?Well, as the Indians' star shortstop continues to force his way into the Most Valuable Player conversation in his first full season in the
CHICAGO -- Remember when the book on Francisco Lindor was that he was a magician in the field and a smart baserunner, but suspect as a hitter?
Well, as the Indians' star shortstop continues to force his way into the Most Valuable Player conversation in his first full season in the Major Leagues, the White Sox have welcomed their own shortstop of the future, erstwhile point guard Tim Anderson.
Like Lindor, Anderson arrived with questions to answer -- and he's answering them quickly. He's going to make his share of errors, but his athleticism plays well at shortstop. His quick-twitch bat works at the top of the batting order, even if he combines an aggressive approach with a high whiff ratio.
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Anderson's homer off Marcus Stroman on Sunday was his third in the past six games, but he'll tell you he's not a home-run hitter. He's never had double-digit homers in the Minor Leagues, so he's not just being humble. But what he may really be is a winning player.
The White Sox haven't graduated a lot of those from their system to their lineup in the past decade. He's the exact kind of player they've been missing -- one who can use his speed and natural talent to put pressure on opponents, joining Adam Eaton in serving notice that they have a lot of ways to win besides just hitting home runs.
The White Sox somehow didn't win on Saturday despite hitting seven home runs against the Blue Jays. But Chris Sale stepped up Sunday to help them win the weekend series and get back to .500.
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Sunday's win gave Chicago a 38-38 record, including an 8-8 mark since Anderson joined the lineup. That might not sound like much, but they had dropped 12 of 15 when he was promoted from Triple-A to take Jimmy Rollins' spot.
Few teams have had as wild of a ride this season as Robin Ventura's team, which was 23-10 on May 9 to lead the American League Central by six games. Now the White Sox are seven games behind the streaking Indians in the division, and they're one of 11 teams within 2 1/2 games of a postseason spot in the AL.
Anderson's energy and impact is the biggest of our five reasons you better not write off the White Sox, who start a three-game series with the Twins on Tuesday. The other four:
2. The essential ingredient -- Jose Abreu's bat -- is back
For the White Sox to have shelf life, they need Abreu to be their version of Miguel Cabrera. He was that level of hitter in 2014, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award, but he took a baby step backward in '15. He headed into this season expecting a huge season, in part because GM Rick Hahn had added Todd Frazier to hit behind him. But he got off to a horrendous start.
Lately, he looks like the guy the White Sox count on so heavily.
Abreu, who had a 21-game on-base streak end with an 0-for-4 game on Sunday, has a slash line of .310/.357/.563 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 87 June at-bats. If he is on his way to rediscovering the groove he was in halfway through 2014 -- 1.032 OPS in June, 1.099 in July -- he will carry his team a long way toward October.
3. The starting rotation has better days ahead
Yes, Sale is baseball's first 13-game winner. But even he and running buddy Jose Quintana went through some rough times recently. They were 4-4 with a 5.02 ERA in eight June starts before Sale beat Stroman on Sunday, holding the loaded Toronto lineup to solo homers by Troy Tulowitzki and Junior Lake over eight innings.
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Even with Sale and Quintana, factor in a slow start by Carlos Rodon, the nightmarish struggle of James Shields in his first four starts in a White Sox uniform and trouble finding a fifth starter and you have a 4.34 starter ERA, which ranks fifth in the AL. The good news is that Rodon has given up two earned runs or fewer in five of his past six starts, and Shields' track record tells us he'll figure it out soon if he's healthy, which everyone insists he is.
Sale and Quintana are sure to be mentioned in trade rumors if the Sox don't run their record to a comfortable level above .500, even if the Sox say it would take a king's ransom to consider dealing them. The bet here is that Sale's two most recent starts, including seven strong innings at Fenway Park on Tuesday, are the start of a turnaround for the rotation.
4. Frazier will make pitchers pay
Acquired from the Reds last winter, Frazier has in many respects been the two-way player the White Sox needed at third base. He's hit 21 home runs, second to Mark Trumbo's 22 in the AL. But it took a single off Stroman on Sunday to get his batting average above the dreaded Mendoza Line.
While turning into a more one-dimensional hitter than he's ever been, Frazier has continued the regression that started after a terrific first half last season (.284/.337/.585). It may be unrealistic to expect him to return to those heights, but perhaps he can channel 2014, when he hit .273 with a .336 on-base percentage and 29 homers.
Frazier needs to clear his head, and with the All-Star break approaching, he will get that chance. Bet on him being a much tougher out in August and September than he's been so far.
5. Help is on the way
It remains to be seen if Hahn will double-down on 2016 and trade more prospects to acquire another bat or a strike-throwing reliever or two, since the White Sox bullpen has walked an AL-high 112 in 228 1/3 innings. But he took a calculated risk that could pay off huge, signing Justin Morneau last month.
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Morneau spent the winter recovering from elbow surgery and only started taking batting practice on the field on Saturday. He feels good and is encouraged that he could be with the White Sox after the All-Star break, assuming a Minor League rehab goes well.
Morneau won a National League batting title in Colorado two years ago. It's a stretch to expect that level of production, but he'll make the lineup longer as a regular DH and occasional first baseman, getting Abreu off his feet. He should be a solid addition, especially if Abreu, Frazier, Anderson, Eaton and a revitalized Melky Cabrera (.333, .961 OPS in June) already have the lineup rolling.
**Phil Rogers is a columnist for MLB.com.