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 Minor League News & Autograph Blog Home

Top Prospect Alert - Ryan Anderson

By Schuyler Dombroske

DOB: 7/12/79, Age: 22, Height: 6’10’’, Weight: 215, Bats: L, Throws: L. Acquired: Mariners - Drafted in the 1st Round of the 1997 Draft (Divine Child HS, Dearborn, MI). 2000 Stats: (AAA - Tacoma) 5-8, 3.98 ERA, 104 IP, 83 H, 55 BB, 146 K. 2001 Stats: DNP - Shoulder surgery to repair torn labrum.
   Two years ago, there were not many prospects that looked to be more of a sure thing than the “Little Unit.” Anderson had spent almost 20 starts in AAA as a 20 year old, lowering his H/9 and BB/9 while increasing his K/9 in the process. His second and third pitches were improving every few starts, and it was becoming harder and harder for the Mariners to justify keeping him out of the major league rotation. Suffice it to say that times have changed. Anderson was just shut down for the third time in eighteen months, and all three have been due to the same area of his body: his pitching shoulder. Perhaps this latest bout of stiffness or tendonitis is merely part of the recovery process from the torn labrum he suffered last year, but it brings up all of the old caution flags. When healthy, Ryan Anderson is very similar to Randy Johnson at his age. He throws a mid-90’s fastball from a release point of about 8½ feet above the ground, making it as unhittable as a fastball can be. His slider is almost as nasty as Johnson’s, but just like the Big Unit at age 22, Anderson does not have a high degree of control over it yet. Ryan is also working on a changeup that scouts say was improving dramatically before his injury. With Anderson’s velocity, his changeup would barely need to be adequate to fool hitters most of the time. Whenever Anderson can start to throw again, he still has some work to do. His BB/9 number shrank from 5.7 in 1999 to 4.7 in 2000, which is progress, but that probably isn’t good enough for big-league success. The second problem that he has had is a lack of consistency, not just from start to start, but from inning to inning. Anderson’s mechanics fluctuate quite a bit more than they should, and when they’re off, his velocity and command waver significantly. A good pitching coach should be able to straighten him out in time. His start-to-start consistency is probably more mental than physical. He will dominate for a start or two, and then become far too hittable for a few starts. As with many young pitchers, time is perhaps the only answer for curing these maladies. Unfortunately, when you’re shut down, you can’t work on these things. That could slow Anderson down a bit as he progresses toward stardom, which is no longer the near-lock that it appeared to be just two years ago.
   Anderson did indeed throw yesterday (2/23), and everything looked fine. The caution flag is still out, though, as shoulder soreness severe enough to shut a pitcher down is abnormal as often as it is normal. When healthy, Baby Unit will start at AAA again, to try to regain game strength and work on the issues that I addressed. He ought to be ready for a rotation spot in Seattle by 2003, barring any further medical difficulties. Taking potential injury out of the equation for a moment, Anderson has good enough stuff to supplant Freddy Garcia as Seattle’s ace in a few years, and could head a fantastic young rotation including Gil Meche and Joel Piniero. Randy Johnson didn’t become much more than a league average pitcher until he was 30, so we may be in for a bit of a wait on Anderson’s potential. If realized, however, the upside will be similar. Keep a close eye on him early this year, because he will likely be babied for a while. If he can make it through this year under 200 innings without being shut down for an extended period of time, I would say there’s a good chance he’ll be pitching in Safeco to start 2003.


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