NBC Baseball

August 7, 2012

Bob Lutz: Dodge City shortstop has raw ability that catches eye

The most exciting player I’ve seen in the NBC World Series can’t get on base.

The most exciting player I’ve seen in the NBC World Series can’t get on base.

Dodge City A’s shortstop Tim Anderson is 2 for 17 and has struck out four times during Dodge City’s first four games. He has also made a couple of errors.

But you don’t have to look particularly closely to see that Anderson, who is from Tuscaloosa, Ala., and just finished his freshman season at East Central Community College in Decatur, Miss., is one of those toolsy prospects the NBC is famous for.

Whether he’s 2 for 17 or 2 for 117, Anderson has most of the things baseball scouts look for. He’s as fast as any player in the tournament and he has a cannon for a right arm.

It’s that right arm that got him into trouble when he was a kid, but also convinced him that he was destined to play baseball.

“I was throwing rocks outside at my grandma’s house and I broke the glass on her screen door,” Anderson said. “My grandma wanted to whoop me but my parents signed me up to play baseball.”

And although basketball was his best sport in high school, baseball captured his imagination the same way his abilities have captured mine.

Anderson has flashed his strong arm numerous times in the tournament. And there also have been glimpses of his super speed, as there was Monday night during Dodge City’s elimination win over the Liberal Bee Jays. After hitting a ball into right-center field, Anderson stretched what would have been a single for most players into an easy double. He looked like the Florida Marlins’ Jose Reyes as he chew up the ground between first and second base.

“He’s a plus-plus runner,” Dodge City coach Phil Stephenson said. “And he’s aggressive on the base paths both when he’s trying to steal bases and when he’s trying to advance that extra base. And he seems to have good instincts out there.”

Anderson was one of the best players in the Jayhawk League this summer, batting .352 with 14 doubles, two triples, eight homers and 39 RBIs. He also stole 29 bases in 36 attempts, not quite as impressive as his 30-for-30 season at East Central, where he batted .360.

“He grew up a lot in the year we had him,” East Central coach Neal Holliman said. “And he’s stayed humble through all of the attention he’s gotten, especially this summer.”

Anderson has batted third for the A’s this summer, which tells you he’s not just some fast guy trying to play baseball. He has middle-of-the-order pop, but has discovered in recent weeks what all hitters ultimately discover – that a pitcher has a few tricks up his sleeve, too.

Offspeed pitches have confounded Anderson, who took a called third strike on a slow curve Monday night and proceeded to slam his bat to the ground and flip his helmet into the air.

“That’s one of the few times all summer I’ve seen him get upset,” Stephenson said. “I think he feels like he should be performing better than he has been the past couple of weeks. But struggling with offspeed pitches is typical of most young hitters. He’s a guy who crowds the plate and they’ve been hammering him with fastballs inside. He’s showed he can handle that pitch pretty well, and even fastballs on the outer portion.”

It’s the slow stuff that is driving Anderson bananas, but he said he’s also challenged by the struggle.

“I have quick hands and I’ve been able to catch up with the fastball,” Anderson said. “That breaking ball, I just need to stay back on it and hit it the other way.”

Anderson grew up as an Alabama football fan. No surprise there. But he’s a Mississippi State baseball fan and after one more season at East Central would love to play for the Bulldogs.

He was MLB draft eligible in June but wasn’t chosen. Some scouts talked to him, he said, but he decided that if he was taken in the later rounds – which is probably where he was most likely to go – he wasn’t going to sign.

“I think Tim has a chance to be a good draft as opposed to just being a draft,” Holliman said. “He’s a guy who can continue to grow and develop and really be a high draft pick before it’s all over with.”

Anderson said he has been clocked in 6.4 seconds in the 60-yard dash and he’s curious to see just how far he can advance as a baseball player. He knows he’s far from being a finished product and is determined to work as hard as he can to become one.

“Baseball is what I love,” Anderson said.

He says he’ll figure out how to become an all-around hitter. He knows he’ll eventually figure out how to handle the curves and change-ups that are now fooling him.

He wouldn’t be the first baseball player whose road was blocked by an ability to adjust to hitting all kinds of pitching, though.

“Some guys learn to hit over time and some guys never figure it out,” Stephenson said. “At 19 years old, the jury is still out for a guy like Tim.”

But the jury is buzzing about Anderson’s talent, 2 for 17 or not.

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