Anderson shining in D-backs' starting rotation
After a disappointing start, Arizona's staff finds hope in young right-hander
Over the winter, the Arizona Diamondbacks had high hopes for an established, solid starting rotation that would help take them to the next level. Serious injuries and ineffectiveness from a couple starters changed the team's plans in a hurry.
Staff ace Patrick Corbin has undergone Tommy John surgery. Trevor Cahill had early difficulties pitching in the rotation and was designated for assignment on Monday. Randall Delgado was sent to the bullpen after having a couple rough outings as a starter himself.
On May 11, the D-backs turned to 26-year-old right-hander Chase Anderson to help stabilize their starting pitching. Anderson was a ninth-round selection by Arizona in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Anderson was a three-year letter winner at Wichita Falls (Texas) Rider High School. As a senior, he went 12-1, throwing three no-hitters. Anderson had an ERA of 0.50. He also played shortstop at Rider.
In the 2007 Draft, the Minnesota Twins selected Anderson in the 40th round as the 1,216th player chosen overall. He elected not to sign. Instead, Anderson pitched at North Central College (Texas) and the University of Oklahoma.
Anderson began his pro career pitching for Missoula in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2009. He threw 45 1/3 innings, yielding only 35 hits and 13 walks. Anderson showed good command and control, finishing the campaign with a 3-1 record and a very nice 2.38 ERA.
Anderson completed two more Minor League seasons before my first look at him in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. His assignment followed a season at Double-A Mobile, where he started 21 games but suffered through some injury issues along the way. Anderson was one of the top pitchers in the Fall League, throwing to a record of 3-1 with an ERA of 3.47. He induced lots of swings and misses with a mixture of fastballs, curveballs and a very sophisticated changeup. During the fall season, Anderson struck out 26 and walked only nine. He finished with a WHIP of 1.20. Anderson won Pitcher Of The Week honors in the league.
The D-backs then placed Anderson on their 40-man roster. Last year, he pitched at Triple-A Reno in the Pacific Coast League. In what is known as a hitter's league, Anderson pitched both as a starter and reliever. He had an ERA of 5.73 in 88 innings pitched.
This season, prior to getting a surprise call to join Arizona's rotation, Anderson threw to a 4-2 record in six starts back at Mobile. His ERA was a miniscule 0.69 in 39 innings. Most importantly, Anderson walked only six and struck out 38. Much of his success was due to an improved curveball he worked on during the spring.
Anderson is 6-foot, 190 pounds. That isn't huge in today's pitching landscape, but his lack of size certainly hasn't had a negative impact on his outcome as a member of the D-backs' rotation. In fact, it's been the opposite. Anderson has helped stabilize the wobbly start for the club and has offered quality innings while winning his first five starts.
Anderson has used a 91-92 mph fastball as his main offering, but it's what comes after that puzzles the opposition. He throws improved and efficient curveballs at 78 mph, but it's his changeup that keeps hitters off balance. Changing the eye level of the hitter with less than overpowering velocity has been key to Anderson's early big league success. He throws strikes. Especially strike one. Anderson is very much in control on the mound.
Perhaps the major concern regarding Anderson is the health of his right elbow. He had a flexor tendon strain in 2011 and missed some time the following two seasons with additional elbow issues. That may be why Anderson saw time in the bullpen. Now he's in the rotation and faring well, even in hitter-friendly Chase Field.
Because Anderson goes right after hitters with excellent control and command, he keeps his team in games with an economical pitch count. The sample size is still rather low as a Major League starter, but Anderson has given his club quality innings in a season that needed his help.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.