Keeping with our recent theme of first-half sleeper success stories, we turn to Arizona Diamondbacks rookie right-hander Chase Anderson. Through 10 major league starts he is 6-4, 3.64, with a 47/19 K/BB in 54 innings with 57 hits allowed. A year ago he was getting hammered in Triple-A, so no doubt this caught a lot of people by surprise.
Anderson was a ninth round pick in 2009 from the University of Oklahoma. He was a reliever in college and fairly nondescript, 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. I remained intrigued and kept him in the 2012 book:
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. I saw him pitch in the AFL and was impressed enough to give him a strong recommendation entering 2013, projecting him as a surprise pitcher and giving him an aggressive Grade B-:
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-.
Several people told me that they drafted Anderson for their fantasy leagues based on that recommendation.
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. I owned up in the book comment 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.
And here's the rebound: six excellent starts for Mobile (0.69 ERA, 38/6 K/BB in 39 innings, 22 hits) and decent major league numbers thus far. Keep him out of Reno and the Pacific Coast League, get his triceps healthy, and he seems fine.
The scouting reports haven't changed: his heater runs between 87 and 94 MPH, averaging 90. He mixes in a curveball and changeup. This is classic fourth/fifth starter stuff, not blow-hitters-away ace material, although when his command is on he's gotten people out. His changeup can be very effective in particular.
So what now? Anderson has lived up to the sleeper projection so far this year, but it may not last: note that his FIP is much worse than his ERA at 4.72, so some regression is plausible, even likely, once the league gets a better look at him. That said, he's made adjustments before, and his overall track record is one of success. The only negative on his professional resume (Reno) was when he was not fully healthy and pitching in a bandbox.
If he avoids further health problems, Anderson could last awhile as a back-end starter and bullpen option, Josh Collmenter Part Two perhaps.