Rotoprofessor’s Closer Look at Brett Anderson

Apr 8, 2009

Written by Eric Stashin the Rotoprofessor

Having discussed his teammate, Trevor Cahill, over the weekend, today let’s profile Brett Anderson, the player who was rated the A’s #1 prospect by Baseball America.  The former second round draft pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks (acquired as part of the Dan Haren trade) is just 21-years old and lacks significant experience, throwing just 31.0 innings above Single-A.  Like Cahill, however, he breaks camp as part of the team’s rotation.

He was dominant this spring, posting a 2.83 ERA over 28.2 innings.  While he was not overpowering, striking out 15, he used his pinpoint control, walking just 6, to be effective.  That certainly helped to open some eyes, as does this repertoire described by Baseball America:

“Anderson has premium command, averaging 1.9 walks per nine innings in his pro career and frequently locating his fastball on the corners of the plate. He’s more proficient working his fastball to his glove side than his arm side.  His two-seam fastball sits at 88-92 mph and generates a lot of groundouts. He also can touch 94 mph with his four-seamer. Anderson has above-average secondary pitches across the board, including a mid- to high-70s curveball with two-plane break. His low- to mid-80s slider gives him a second quality breaking ball, and his changeup is often a plus pitch.”

The curveball and change-up appear to be the two pitches that draw the most comments from scouts, with Keith Law making a similar statement:

“Anderson is a command left-hander with an out-pitch curveball and an average changeup that projects as plus. The curve has a very sharp, almost spiking two-plane break; he maintains good arm speed on the changeup and it runs late towards his arm side.”

Those two pitches easily could allow him to succeed in the major leagues, even with a fastball that is said to touch 94, but realistically sits in the high-80s to low 90s.  That’s obviously not overpowering, but with the mix of stuff he can be successful.

The inexperience is a huge concern, especially heading into 2009.  No matter what the talent, it is tough to make this big of a jump.  Let’s look at a few pitchers asked to make a similar jump in recent years, and how they performed in their rookie campaign:

  • Clayton Kershaw – He had thrown 86 innings at Double-A before being recalled.  Last season he posted a 4.26 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in 107.2 innings for the Dodgers.
  • Tim Lincecum – He had thrown 31 innings at Triple-A (and none at Double-A).  In 2007 he posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 146.1 innings for the Giants.

The biggest difference is that those two pitchers had the ability to generate significant swings and misses.  Not that they were overly impressive to begin with, but a strikeout is a quick way to bail you out of a jam.

When you pitch to more contact, you need to have that experience… That feel, to draw on.  Yes, Anderson has posted impressive strikeout rates in the minor leagues (his career K/9 is at 9.7), but I am not convinced that he can maintain it at the upper-levels.  A number more in the high 6s is likely, which is not bad, but it is not overly impressive, either.

The stadium in Oakland will be beneficial to him, but he is not solely going to be pitching there.  He’s got to take his act on the road and who knows what that will bring with it.

Additionally, he is at the disadvantage of pitching in the American League.  Granted, he’s not in the strongest division, but the Angels and Rangers should boast solid offenses.  Also, don’t forget about the fact that the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays will all face him sooner or later.  That could spell disaster.

His first start is scheduled in Los Angeles against the Angels, so we will quickly learn if spring performance was reality or just a flash in the pan.

For those interested, here’s what I’m projecting for him this season:

135.0 IP, 8 W, 4.53 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 103 K (6.7 K/9), 40 BB (2.67 BB/9)

With his control, he has the potential to be more successful then Cahill, especially in the WHIP department.  However, there is a downfall to being right around the zone  the majority of the time, because he opens himself up to give up significantly more hits.  With time and experience, he’ll improve, but in 2009 struggles could abound.

I would take a similar approach that I recommended with Cahill, watching from a distance for the time being.  If he proves early on that he can succeed, then he’ll be worth it.  Otherwise, yearly league owners should just wait and see.

Keeper league owners, obviously, is a different story.  Stash him away and wait for him to fully develop.

What do you think?  Is Anderson someone you think will be worth owning in 2009?  Would you rather own him or Cahill?

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