The American League West is shaping up to be a battle of attrition in 2009. Sure, the Angels are coming off of a 100-win campaign, but short of a Disney revival that pulls Danny Glover, Tony Danza and Christopher Lloyd out of retirement, that’s not occurring again. With downright nefarious injuries striking the rotation and a Teixeira-less offense, LAA figures fall well short of 2008’s pace.
As such, the spread of talent in the West is not all that great: PECOTA forecasts the Athletics to take the division crown with just 84 victories, with the Angels breaking even and the Mariners (77 wins) and Rangers (70) filling out baseball’s short-stack division.
Sensing there’s no time like the present, Oakland has pulled out all the stops to contend in ’09. No doubt, the club’s farm system is in dramatically better shape than it was at this point last year (so they’re well-equipped for the long run as well). However, Matt Holliday was imported from the Rockies and the one-two prospect punch of Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson will fill out a rotation worn thin by the continued health issues of nominal ace Justin Duchscherer. Starting with Anderson, let’s meet Oakland’s latest infusion of highly-regarded mound talent.
The word that has always come attached to Anderson is “polish.” Son of Oklahoma State baseball coach Frank Anderson, Brett lasted until the second round of the 2006 amateur draft due to signability concerns (according to Baseball America, he wanted $1 million) and qualms over his athleticism. A portly kid at the time, Anderson elicited mixed reviews from scouts. On the one hand, southpaws with advanced off-speed offerings (in Anderson’s case, a plus curve and changeup) are rare commodities. On the other hand…
“So what’s not to like? Scouts say it’s Anderson’s glaring lack of athleticism. He has a soft, 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, and he has trouble fielding bunts and covering first base. Some scouts say he has the best command of any high school lefty in recent memory, while others say he may be the worst athlete taken in the first round in years.” (Baseball America’s 2006 Draft Database)
Luckily, the 100 meter sprint, pole vaulting and freestyle swimming were not added to professional baseball. But, the whole pitching thing? Anderson excelled at it like few others.
Arizona signed him for $950K, and Anderson ripped through the D-Backs’ system in his debut season in 2007. He soared with the Silver Hawks in the Low-A Midwest League, posting prodigious numbers (2.03 FIP, 9.41 K/9, 1.11 BB/9) in 81.1 innings.
Promoted to Visalia of the High-A California League, Anderson continued to chop batters down as a member of the Oaks: he whiffed 9.23 hitters per nine while walking 2.54 per nine. An elevated BABIP (.386) and some homer trouble (1.38 HR/9) pushed his FIP to 4.07, but that’s still extremely impressive for a teenager in the most perilous league for pitching prospects. In addition to the K’s and precise command, Anderson posted a 55.2 GB% for the year.
After being included in the talent haul acquired by the A’s in the Dan Haren deal, Anderson returned to the Cal league to open up 2008. He continued to dominate (9.73 K/9, 2.19 BB/9, 59.7 GB% in 74 IP), earning a promotion to AA Midland. In 31 frames for the RockHounds, Anderson saw his already-impressive strikeout rate spike to 11.03 per nine, while his customarily sharp command (2.61 BB/9) and worm-burning (53.8 GB%) remained intact.
Anderson has all of 30-some frames above A-Ball, but he might just be ready to his first foray into the majors. It’s hard to find a flaw with the lefty. Does he miss bats? Check. Exhibit good control? Check. Keep the ball on the ground? Check.
The 21 year-old also backs up those exceptionally strong numbers with positive scouting reports: he won’t cause anyone to drool over his radar gun readings, but his low-90’s fastball has sink, his curve and change remain crisp, and he also mixes in a solid mid-80’s slide piece for good measure. What’s not to like? It might sound crazy, but of all of Oakland’s youthful arms, Anderson might just be the most major league-ready.
A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.