This morning we continue our series on "sleepers who woke up" with a look at Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Chase Anderson. My plan is to write up several more of these guys, then do a summary article looking for commonalities. I'm mainly focusing on pitchers at this point.
Chase Anderson made 21 starts for the Arizona Diamondbacks this year, going 9-7 with a 4.01 ERA, 4.22 FIP, with a 105/40 K/BB in 114 innings with 117 hits allowed. His 114 innings were the fourth-most among National League rookies and his fWAR ranked sixth. It's not a spectacular campaign, generating 0.8 fWAR, but it was certainly more than expected from a 26-year-old who was getting beat up in Triple-A last year.
Anderson was a ninth round pick in 2009 from the University of Oklahoma. He was an adequate reliever in college, but in pro ball he got off to a good start with a 2.38 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB in 45 innings for Missoula in the Pioneer League. Moved up to A-ball in 2010, he pitched well for both South Bend and Visalia, combining for a 3.32 ERA and a 114/25 K/BB in 108 innings, prompting the following report entering 2011:
Chase Anderson was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the ninth round in 2009, from the University of Oklahoma. His velocity is average, but he has a good breaking ball, and his changeup is excellent. He was quite effective in the swingman role for Visalia in the California League last year, posting strong component ratios across the board; K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP, all very good. Overall he had a 114/25 K/BB in 108 innings with just 94 hits allowed. Anderson faces the transition to Double-A in 2011. I am reasonably optimistic, but as with all guys without terrific fastballs, we need to see if he can trick hitters as readily at higher levels. Grade C+.
Unfortunately a strained elbow and forearm limited him to just three starts in 2011, although he did post a 20/1 K/BB in those three starts. Here's the report filed for 2012:
Chase Anderson hurt his elbow after three starts in the California League last year and missed the rest of the season. Obviously we need to see if he fully recovers, but a healthy Anderson is a pitcher to watch, due to exceptional command of his 88-92 MPH sinker. He has a very good changeup, and both his curveball and slider have strong moments. Other pitchers in the Diamondbacks system get more press, but Anderson is a plausible sleeper and could surprise us, as Josh Collmenter did. Grade C.
Healthy in 2012, he ran up a 2.86 ERA and a 97/25 K/BB in 104 innings for Double-A Mobile, then performed well in the Arizona Fall League. This got him a fairly aggressive Grade B- entering 2013:
An elbow problem cost Chase Anderson most of 2011, but he rehabbed the injury without surgery and was at full strength in 2012. He had a very notable campaign for Double-A Mobile, then followed it up with a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 3.47 ERA with a 26/9 K/BB in 23 innings. He should move up to Triple-A for 2013 and is in line for a major league trial. Anderson was a ninth round pick from the University of Oklahoma in 2009. He’s always been effective when healthy, showing outstanding command of an 88-92 MPH fastball and a superior changeup. He also has a solid curveball and slider, giving him a complete arsenal, and his statistical components have always been strong. If you are looking for someone to pull an A.J. Griffin-like surprise in 2013, Anderson is a good candidate. Grade B-.
Unfortunately that did not pan out, not in 2013. Bothered by a triceps strain for much of the year, Anderson was hit hard at Triple-A Reno, coughing up a 5.73 ERA and 107 hits in 88 innings. He did show decent control with an 80/33 K/BB, but that was nothing like what we were hoping for. A mea culpa for 2014:
I’m sorry if I screwed up your fantasy team with Chase Anderson. I saw him as a potential A.J. Griffin-like surprise and gave him a strong recommendation last year, but obviously I failed with that prediction. He got lit up most of the season in Triple- A Reno, and, well, there isn’t much to find positive in the numbers. He got hit hard both at home and on the road. There was probably some bad BABIP luck in there, but reports indicate that he had legitimate trouble commanding his fastball at times, which is a problem for a guy who doesn’t throw especially hard (89-93, 94 at times). Without sharp command, his curveball and changeup (while solid pitches) weren’t good enough to compensate by themselves. All that said, Anderson deserves more chances given his complete track record, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him rebound as long as there isn’t a health concern. Grade C.
With healthy triceps this year, the rebound came.
The scouting reports haven't changed: his heater runs between 87 and 94 MPH, averaging 90. He mixes in a curveball and change-up, typical back-end starter stuff, with the change-up being his best pitch. He usually throws strikes, but is vulnerable to home runs, giving up 16 this year. It didn't kill him because he avoided excess walks and usually kept extra runners off the bases. He put some strong starts on the docket when his command was on, including a three-start run in late July and August when he gave up three runs total in 19 innings with a 17/4 K/BB, all three runs coming on solo homers.
So what happens now? Anderson performed well enough to be in the mix for 2015, but he isn't the kind of guy who will get a lot of slack if he struggles. It would help if he can cut back on the home runs. That may or may not be possible: he was not excessively gopher-prone in the minors, although he was always a fly ball pitcher. He still qualifies as an awakened sleeper, given that even 2014 exceeded the expectations of 12 months ago.
The next awakened sleeper I'm looking at is David Buchanan of the Philadelphia Phillies. After this series is complete, I will transition to working on the Top 20 Prospect Lists for 2015 and work on the next edition of the Baseball Prospect Book.