Career Profile: Garret Anderson
Garret Anderson announced his retirement today. I'm going to make a habit of Career Profiling long-term players as they leave the game. A lot of these older players were active way back in the early 1990s when I was just learning about prospects.
Garret Anderson was drafted by the California Angels in the fourth round in 1990, out of high school in Granada Hills, California. He was a multiple sport start as a prep, excelling in football, basketball, and baseball. He was considered a somewhat raw but a promising hitter, expected to hit for both average and power. His pro debut was nothing special: .213/.231/.228 in 32 games in the Arizona Rookie League, followed by a .253/.284/.349 mark in 25 games for Boise in the Northwest League. He had major problems with strike zone judgment, drawing just six walks against 42 strikeouts, and his power was nonexistent at that point. His draft position and scouting reports would have been enough to get him on the map as a Grade C, "good tools but weak performance, keep an eye on him" player.
Anderson moved up to Quad Cities in the Midwest League in 1991. He didn't do much, hitting .260/.295/.342 in 392 at-bats, with two homers, 20 walks, and 89 strikeouts. Despite the weak performance numbers, scouts liked him a lot, praising his swing and expecting better numbers with maturity. He was rated as the Number Eight prospect in the Midwest League by Baseball America. I would probably give a similar player a Grade C+ now, noting the positive scouting opinion but wanting to see better performance.
Promoted to the California League for 1992, Anderson hit better in the friendlier environment at Palm Springs, hitting .323/.366/.391 in 322 at-bats. He hit just one home run and still demonstrated an impatient approach with just 21 walks, but he made contact, didn't strike out excessively, and continued to impress scouts. A promotion to Double-A Midland resulted in a .274/.314/.349 mark in 146 at-bats, not great obviously but not horrid for a 20-year-old reaching Double-A.
Statistically, much of the statistical improvement could be traced to the simple difference between hitting in Quad Cities and hitting in Palm Springs, but scouts remained very high. He again drew a Baseball America ranking at Number Eight in his league. A similar player now would probably get a strong C+ or weak B- from me.
Anderson skipped Double-A in 1993 and went to Triple-A Vancouver, hitting .293/.334/.409 with 31 walks, 95 strikeouts, four homers, but 34 doubles in 467 at-bats. Again, few walks, but he was starting to show gap power and was young for Triple-A at age 21. This time he was Number Six on the Baseball America list for his league, and scouts were starting to talk about him as a possible future batting champion. Given his performance in Triple-A at that age, I would probably give a similar player now a Grade B, although I would no doubt want to see more power.
A return engagement at Vancouver in 1994 resulted in a .321/.356/.499 mark with 42 doubles, 12 homers, 102 RBI, 28 walks, and 93 strikeouts in 505 at-bats. He got into five games for the Angels before the strike, going 5-for-13. Ranked as the Number Four PCL prospect, his power was developing and he was expected to take over the left field job for the Angels once the strike was resolved. I would likely have given him a strong Grade B.
Anderson hit .321/.351/.505 in 106 games, 374 at-bats for the Angels in 1995. The .505 SLG was interesting; he'd never showed that kind of power in the minors. It was a strong start to a career that spanned 17 seasons, 15 of them in an Angels uniform.
Anderson was never liked very much by statheads due to a low walk rate that made his production very dependent on his batting average. His highest OPS+ was 131 in 2003 at the age of 31. He also had strong season in '02 (127 OPS+) and his rookie year, but even in seasons where he was hitting homers, doubles, and driving in runs, his performance by the best sabermetric measures was merely okay and didn't match his reputation among traditionalists as a "run producer."
He was a good fielder early in his career, but a liability towards the end. His best WAR mark was a 5.0 in the aforementioned 2003 and he finished at 25.9 overall. His final slash line was .293/.324/.461, 102 OPS+, in 2228 games. He picked up 2529 hits. Highlights included making three All-Star Teams and leading the American League in doubles twice.
While his weaknesses were evident, I always felt that Anderson got a bit of a bad rap at times. He had genuinely excellent seasons in '02 and '03 and had several other campaigns that were solid. While he wasn't a great player, he was a pretty good one who lasted a very long time, and his Comp list is interesting: Dave Parker, Steve Garvey, Al Oliver, Harold Baines, Paul O'Neill, Ruben Sierra, Tony Perez, Louis Gonzalez, Rusty Staub, and Chili Davis.
Most of those guys played in lower-offense eras and were better than Anderson, but still, Garret deserves credit for what he was: a guy who would hit .280-.300 in his sleep, who hit a bunch of doubles and a fair number of homers, who was a good fielder when young, and who was very durable up until the age of 32.