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Dodgers top prospects 2015: Chris Anderson, No. 8

Chris Anderson has struck out 25 percent of his professional hitters faced.
Chris Anderson has struck out 25 percent of his professional hitters faced.
Steve Saenz | Rancho Cucamonga Quakes

Arguably the most pure power pitcher in the Dodgers system, Chris Anderson comes in a little lower than some might expect because his overall control makes him a better future bullpen candidate, albeit one with closer potential. Anderson has some of the best pure stuff in the system, and the build to be a rotation workhorse, but without more control, Anderson has not shown the ability to work deeper into games. Should he get moved to the bullpen, Anderson’s upper 90’s fastball and plus to plus plus slider should make him a highly valuable late inning reliever with elite strikeout potential.

As a starter, Anderson has one of the livelier fastballs in the system. He typically sits at 92-94 with heavy armside run. Anderson doesn’t generate as many ground balls as you’d expect with this life, most likely because he tends to pitch up in the zone. Anderson has the potential to throw in the upper 90’s in relief stints and should maintain enough of the life on the pitch to miss plenty of bats.

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The problem with Anderson’s fastball is that he doesn’t demonstrate a lot of control of the pitch. Anderson misses to the arm side often because the pitch has so much run. At other times, he won’t finish his follow-through enough and leaves the pitch up and to his arm side. Despite plus arm strength and overall good arm speed, Anderson can drag his arm behind his body in his delivery leaving pitches to right of his desired location.

Surprisingly, Anderson shows better control of a sneakily good change up. The pitch isn’t thrown with a great deal of fade, nor does it show a 10+ mph separation from his fastball, but he delivers it with great arm speed to deceive hitters. Anderson does a better job getting the change up down in the zone and looks comfortable throwing it for strikes in any count. Whether he stays a starter or moves to the pen, the change up should be a solid weapon in his arsenal.

Where Anderson sets himself apart from other relief candidate arms in the system is the addition of a second power pitch (with the fastball) that can miss bats in his slider. Anderson throws the slider with sharp 11-5 tilt and he can both throw the pitch in the zone for strikes and use it as a chase pitch. I haven’t seen him leave many sliders flat on film and the break on the pitch looks pretty consistent. Anderson could almost work backward with the control he has on the slider and change up to set up his fastball.

It’s easy to see why the Dodgers would rather see Anderson stay in the rotation. He’s a big, sturdy pitcher with simple, repeatable mechanics and has had little trouble taking his turn in the rotation for his minor league teams. I had doubts on Anderson being able to maintain his stuff and work load in the minors after a heavy college workload that brought up red flags in the 2013 draft (likely causing Anderson to fall to the Dodgers at 18), but Anderson has shown no ill effects from this and if anything, has shown more impressive, consistent arm strength.

Despite this durability, Anderson’s control has prevented him from working deep enough into games to forecast a number three starter with 200+ inning upside. Anderson was only able to complete six innings nine times in 27 outings (for comparison Tom Windle was 11 for 26, Zach Eflin was 10 for 24). This can be partially attributed to the friendly offensive environments Anderson pitched in in the California League, but with a walk rate over 4, it will be tough for Anderson to get deep into games at any level.

With an already mature build, Anderson doesn’t have a significant amount of physical upside left. He already holds his velocity deep into games, and shows above average arm strength consistently from start to start. Anderson will turn 23 at the end of July, and between college and the minor leagues, has already logged a significant amount of innings for a player just entering Double-A. I mention this only because I don’t see youth or inexperience as excuses for his current level of fastball control. He can still improve, perhaps with better timing in his delivery, or adjustments in his grip/release point to reduce the run on the fastball from carrying the pitch out of the zone.

If Anderson makes improvements in Double-A and can reduce his walk rate, then he’ll jump ahead on this as a power throwing starter with strikeout and innings potential. However, I see Anderson as closer to a finished product that might be most effective in relief. In shorter stints, Anderson can ramp up the velocity on the fastball and worry less about the location, while generating swings and misses with three pitches. Anderson might be more valuable to the Dodgers in the near future as a bullpen option, should he prove ready at some point in 2015. For now, Anderson makes this list here because I see a bullpen future more likely than a starter one.