It has been a good year for low minors pitching and it also has been a bounceback year for the Phillies much maligned 2012 draft class. The player that sits at the intersection of both is RHP Drew Anderson. Anderson currently has a 2.80 ERA across two levels and 13 starts to go with a 20 walk to 73 strikeout ratio in 64.1 innings. Anderson hasn’t really come out of nowhere either, he was once a Top 30 prospect (2013) and snuck onto another Top 50 (2014) back when the farm system was weaker. Instead Anderson is back after 2 and a half years of injuries that had put his career on hold.
The 22 year old right hander was drafted in the 21st round in 2012 and was teammates with his fellow 2012 draft mates on the 2013 Crosscutters. That year he showed a fringe average fastball, but solid breaking ball and advanced feel for pitching. It was a profile that required some projection and his 2014 season got off to a slow start, was solid, and then was over. The Phillies opting to rehab his injuries over the winter and give him a healthy start to 2015. Instead his UCL went in early 2015 and Anderson had Tommy John surgery in early April. This year Anderson started out in Extended Spring Training before joining the BlueClaws in late May, roughly 13.5 months after surgery.
Anderson has been dominant since then. On the season he has allowed 2 or fewer runs in 11 of his 13 starts. His other two starts he allowed a combined 12 earned runs, or more than half of all his runs this season. His combined line for his 11 good starts is 58 innings, 38 hits, 8 earned runs (1.24 ERA), 17 walks, 62 strikeouts. Anderson was even part of a no hitters with the Clearwater Threshers this season.
It isn’t just the numbers that have been good for Anderson this year, his stuff has come back stronger than ever. The player who sat more 89-91 is sitting 92-95 now after building some velocity back up after his first few starts. He has even touched up to 97 while pitching with the Threshers. His go to secondary pitch is an average curveball, and he also throws a changeup that needs work, but shows potential, and a shorter slider. Evaluators have noted that Anderson has looked rusty and he has at times been prone to losing his command in games. That is to be expected for someone coming back from Tommy John, and he should have future average command. Unless he makes progress on his secondary pitches he is probably not more than a back end starter if healthy, but he should be able to play off of his fastball to keep more advanced hitters off balance.
The negatives on Anderson is that he now has a serious injury track record until he can prove healthy over a long period of time. He has pitched a solid workload this year, but he has had plenty of rest between starts and has not been pushed yet. Additionally, Anderson is not a large pitcher, he has some height but he is fairly thin and lacks a workhorse frame. He will need to add more strength just to hold up long term in a rotation. The downside of all of this is that he may eventually end up in the bullpen if he cannot handle the rigors of starting.
Anderson is also Rule 5 eligible after this year, and while his numbers have been great it is hard to see a team taking him this year. His stuff is solid, but he lacks a swing and miss pitch that would carry him in bullpen role for a team picking him. Additionally, he has no relief experience and has not had less than 5 days rest between starts this year, meaning a move to the bullpen to hide him for a season would be highly risky. In the end his upside is not enough that a team has a huge reward by carrying him all year. Another year of development and health could see Anderson get a 40 man spot and on the cusp of the majors if the Phillies need pitching help.