If you talk to some folks in the fantasy baseball world they will tell you they think that Brett Anderson of the Athletics can be a top-25 starting pitcher (the A’s seem to think so as well as they named him their Opening Day starter). You don’t have to draft him that highly this season, his ADP in NFBC Drafts is barely inside the top-40, so he should be viewed as a prime target on draft day right (for those of you interested, The Oracle currently has Brett Anderson inside his top-50 in his 2013 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide)? Let’s see here…
Anderson had a solid rookie season in 2009. After coming into the year as one of the top-10 prospects in baseball according to Baseball America he went 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 175.1 innings (he also punched out 150 batters). However, the injuries then began to strike. After making 30 starts as a rookie he totaled just 32 starts in 2010-11. Anderson was terrific in 19 starts in year two with a 2.80 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, but he made only 19 starts. In 2011 he lasted a mere 13 outings before he had to shut things down due to a wonky elbow that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Coming back from that injury in 2012 he tossed six games for the Athletics reminding everyone why there was so much interest in Anderson a few years ago (he went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.03 WHIP). All told Anderson is 25-25 in his career with a 3.57 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Those numbers certainly don’t jump off the page at you at all, but they are solid numbers for a young hurler who has spent his brief career in the American League.
Let’s take a look at some of his other career numbers.
Anderson owns a career minor league number of 9.4 punchouts per nine innings. Wow is right. The only way that I could be more impressed was if he didn’t walk anyone. Viola. For his 54 game minor league career his walk rate is under two per nine leading to a dominating 4.98 K/BB ratio. Simply, you can’t help but have success with a nearly 5:1 K/BB ratio. In fact, you will likely be a borderline dominant talent if you can do that. Anderson hasn’t been quite that good at the big league level though. He’s still not walking anyone with a 2.19 per nine mark, but the K-rate has really shrunk down to less than seven per nine innings (only in his rookie season has that mark been seven – the last three year’s he’s posted marks of 6.01, 6.59 and 6.43 per nine). As a result he’s given back 40 percent of that K/BB ratio with the Athletics, though a 3.14 career mark is still darn impressive (for his career Felix Hernandez owns a 3.10 mark, Jered Weaver is at 3.17 mark and Jake Peavy at 3.20.).
Anderson’s other calling card at the big league level has been his impressive ground ball tendencies. Anderson has posted a ground ball rate of at least 50 percent in each of his four seasons, and last year the mark was a career best at 59.8 (his career rate is 54.0 percent). When you don’t beat yourself with the free pass, and you keep the ball on the ground, success is very likely to follow.
Anderson’s health is key. It’s one thing to have an injury here or there. It’s another thing to have suffered injury induced reduction in your innings pitched total for 3-straight years. At this point the good news is that Anderson has been deemed healthy after a setback in Spring Training, and it seems like he has a legit shot to return to the 30 start total of his rookie season. However, it would be wise to avoid getting too aggressive with Anderson. After all, he did throw just 35 innings last season for the A’s after throwing only 25.1 innings in the minors. Would the A’s allow Anderson to throw 175.1 innings in 2013 as he did back in 2009? If he did he would be adding more than 100 innings to his total from last season. Even if the A’s let him go for 175 innings he’s not likely to be allowed to reach 200 innings, and that does somewhat cap his value somewhat. It’s also a concern that he’s only been able to throw 120 big league innings in only one of his four seasons, and that certainly increases the risk. Still, he’s a very talented arm who induces ground balls with the best of them, and that should leave the floor pretty elevated with Anderson as long as he can take the ball every five days. He’s a solid 4th starter type to add to you mixed league squad though one that may have a bit less upside than others would lead you to believe given the health concerns and the lack of punchouts.
* Don’t forget to pick up your copy of the 2013 BaseballGuys Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide which is now available. Nearly 150 pages of insight to help you dominate the competition in 2013.
By Ray Flowers