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Remember the days of the Oakland Athletics’ big three of Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, and Barry Zito? While those pitchers have fallen from their elite-statuses due to injuries and under performance, it wasn’t long ago that any of those guys fit the billing of a top-of-the-rotation starter in fantasy leagues.
Now the entire trio has moved on and a flock of new young Athletics’ starters have begun to enter the cusp of what could be promising careers in Oakland.
One of those pitchers, Brett Anderson, may not have as much seasoning at the minor league levels as many of the other top-tier pitching prospects, but thrusting him into the rotation at 21-years-old shows just what the Athletics thought about him. Furthering their belief that Anderson was ready for the big stage was shown through his rookie year statistics:
150 Strikeouts (7.70 K/9)
45 Walks (2.31 BB/9)
At quick glance, you’d tend to think that the A’s lefty held his own, which was especially more impressive considering he’s pitched just 31 innings above Single-A.
Then you realize that his first three months of major league action comprised of ERA’s of 5.01, 6.38, and 5.00 and the final 4.06 ERA he finished up the season with becomes even more astounding.
Surely, we had to think that it would take at least several months — perhaps even several years — for a young pitcher to become accustomed to life on the big stage. But is it possible that Anderson has already transcended the jitters that haunt young starters at such an early age?
Since Anderson had only thrown 225.1 innings prior to entering the major leagues, it’s fairly obvious that the A’s noticed that they have a pitcher who pitches much more advanced than his age would suggest. Maybe the early season struggles had many wondering if the Athletics rushed him to the majors and that another year in the minors would’ve been appropriate. A 3.36 ERA in the minor leagues, with an even more tidy 2.61 ERA in Double-A must have been enough to show the A’s that he was ready.
After the rocky first few months, Anderson’s ERA plummeted to 1.87 in July, inflated to 4.66 in August, shrunk to 2.28 in September, and shriveled to a 1.80 in his one start in October.
While Anderson was touted as having great control and plus-stuff coming into this season, it may be his progression in the velocity department as the season transpired that should be most intriguing. As Buster Olney of ESPN even noted back in July, the southpaw’s velocity increased from 91-93 mph when he was drafted to 94-97 at times last season. Even though Fangraphs averaged his fastball at 92.6 mph, the times that I was able to catch the games Anderson pitched in, he was able to pump his fastball at the speeds Olney describes in his piece.
The 4.06 ERA Anderson finished with last season, accompanied with a .317 BABIP, indicates that with some better luck, he could’ve finished with an ERA sub-4. Removing defensive influence from the equation, the 3.69 FIP suggests nearly .4 points off of his ERA would’ve been entirely realistic, as well.
In addition, the 67.0 percent strand-rate — the fifth lowest in the major leagues — describes the fact that he had almost no luck with runners on base. A higher LOB% could result in a few tenths of a run shaved off of an ERA. Next year, I’d expect it to approach the lower-70’s.
While the evidence is there to hint at a continued maturation as a pitcher, Anderson was not devoid of his own red flags. For a pitcher who has started to become known as a power-lefty, he only had one month — his incredible July — in which his hits allowed were less than his innings pitched.
The most batters Anderson walked in a month was four, which he did twice; and his 2.31 BB/9 rate is encouraging, especially for someone with such limited experience. The high WHIP, therefore, is mostly due to the high number of hits he allows and if history repeats itself, those numbers should decrease ever so slightly as he grows as a major leaguer.
The biggest worry for me in looking at Anderson is his inflated HR/FB rate, which finished up at 11.1 percent for the year. The 34.0 percent of flyballs against shows that if he can manage to limit the long-balls, front-line status shouldn’t be far off. To add, his 50.9 percent groundball rate is applauded, especially for a young pitcher — and would look even better with improved defense behind him.
With that being said, I’m still looking at Brett Anderson as a very solid option in fantasy leagues and an even more coveted pitcher in keeper leagues. The knock on Anderson will be the long-balls and a low win total because of the weak offense behind him.
But I think you could do much worse than a pitcher with good control and excellent stuff. I’d confidently slot him in as a top-45 pitcher in the Professor’s rankings.
What do you guys think? Will you take a chance on Anderson next season? Or do you foresee a sophomore slump?
Make sure to check out our full early rankings: