This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Report on Brett Anderson
I've inadvertently focused on NL East players in my last few prospect reports, so it's time to do some American League coverage. We focus today on Oakland prospect Brett Anderson, who still has a shot to make the starting rotation out of spring training.
Brett Anderson was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the second round in 2006, out of high school in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He was considered one of the most polished high school pitchers available, but his bonus demands, lack of physical projectability, and concern that he might decide to pitch college ball under his father Frank at Oklahoma State, knocked his stock down by a round. He signed late, but he signed, and had a very successful pro debut in the Midwest and California Leagues in 2007. Anderson was traded to Oakland in the Dan Haren deal in December '07, and continued to perform well in the Oakland system, pitching well in the California and Texas Leagues, and for the US Olympic Team. He is still in the running for a major league rotation spot as I write this.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Anderson is 6-4, 215 pounds, a left-handed hitter and thrower, born February 1, 1988. Although physically strong, he is not a great athlete and has to work hard to stay in good shape. He lacks speed and mobility, but his fundamental soundness (no doubt due to his father's influence as a long time college coach) helps.
Anderson possesses an 88-92 MPH sinking fastball, but he can bump his velocity up to 93-94 at times. He keeps the fastball low, gets grounders with it, and has pinpoint location of the pitch. His slider, curveball, and changeup are all major league quality, with the changeup probably being his best pitch overall. He mixes all four offerings with aplomb, and scouts love his work ethic and feel for the game. He is far more polished than most 21 year old pitchers. His mechanics are clean and consistent, and so far he's had no elbow or shoulder problems to worry about. His efficiency helps keep stress off his arm.
The negative side is his lack of physical projectability: he isn't going to gain additional velocity from where he already is. Given how refined he is, this is hardly a damning flaw, but it does mean he doesn't have a huge margin for error. He can't afford slippage in his command.
There is little to complain about in the numbers. Anderson's career mark is 22-12, 3.36 with a 243:48 K:BB in 225 innings, with 221 hits allowed. He posted a 118:27 K:BB last year in 105 innings, allowing 95 hits with a 1.92 GO:AO ratio between High-A Stockton and Double-Midland. His numbers did not deteriorate at all after his promotion, and all of his component marks came out above average. The numbers essentially confirm the scouting reports: he's got great command, and despite the fact that he doesn't have the hottest fastball in the world, his ability to change speeds has kept his strikeout rate at a strong level, even against advanced competition.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
Anderson may open the year in the Oakland rotation, but even if he begins the season in the minors, he would be one of the first pitchers recalled when a spot opens up. Although he doesn't have the pure high-velocity fastball of a classic Number One starter, his combination of pitchability, good stuff, sharp command, and durability should enable him to succeed in a major league rotation as a number two or three type, perhaps similar to Barry Zito during his peak Oakland days. There is always the risk of injury, of course, but as young pitchers go, Anderson is among the safest investments.
For full reports on Anderson and over 1,000 others, pre-order the 2009 Baseball Prospect Book, available only at Johnsickels.net. Now Shipping!
Article first appeared 3/24/09