Despite maintaining his reputation as one of the most durable workhorses in the Dodgers organization, Chris Anderson ’s stuff began to wilt in the hot Texas League summer heat, casting further doubt in his ability to stay in the rotation long-term. Anderson saw a decline in his strikeout rate while his walk rate held steady at the Double-A level, and a late season audition in Triple-A Oklahoma City saw a collapse in his command. When right, however, Anderson is blessed with some of the best stuff in the system, and could still see a future at the back end of the bullpen, with on-the-job training potentially coming in 2016.
At the start of the season, Anderson tantalized with a mid-90s fastball that touched 97 mph with heavy life. Anderson’s fastball would eventually settle in the 90-93 range as the season wore on, with much of the life on the pitch declining as well. In both cases, Anderson struggled to command the pitch and at the upper end, his fastball’s life can be difficult to keep in the strike zone.
Anderson’s slider still has potential as a swing and miss pitch. The pitch has sharp 11-5 break from his high ¾ delivery and he shows his best command with the pitch. His slider was more hittable as he tired, but mostly he kept contact on the ground with the pitch.
Anderson will also show a change up, but like the fastball, controlling the life of the pitch can get complicated. His change has significant fade, but his arm speed is inconsistent on the pitch and the ball frequently tumbles out of the zone. The pitch is no better than fringe average and will likely take a back seat should he move to relief full time.
Anderson’s durable build seems best fit for the rotation. He’s listed at 6’3 and 235 lbs. and looks every part of it from a strength standpoint. He can hold his stuff capably into the 80’s pitch count-wise, but his struggles with strike throwing ultimately hamper his ability to eat innings consistently start to start. He pitched more than 130 innings for the second season in a row, but had to be limited down the stretch with noticeable fatigue.
Should the Dodgers elect to keep Anderson in the rotation, his value will be tied to his durability. He won’t face the consistent heat and humidity of the Texas League at the Major League level, but it’s still a question of whether or not he can pitch with his best stuff every five days for an entire season. He could live with his less than best stuff in the rotation of a second division team, but for a competitive team like Los Angeles, Anderson’s walk rate is too high for middling strikeout numbers and durability is less important than quality of stuff/outings.
Luckily, Anderson has the potential to contribute to the Dodgers as a late inning reliever. His fastball touched 97 mph at the start of the season, and could sit in the mid to upper 90’s more consistently in relief. The ability to red-line every pitch might sharpen his already above average to plus slider, making it a pure and capable out pitch. Focusing on a hard sinking mid-90s fastball and late breaking slider could help Anderson push his strikeout rate back over the nine per nine inning rate and hopefully the narrow repertoire might also help bring his walk rate under four per nine. While Anderson has the stuff to compete late in games, he has work to do on the mental aspect of pitching high leverage innings. Anderson frequently let his struggles show in his mound demeanor and he will need to work to improve his composure in order to pitch late in games. It’s speculation, but improved command and trust in better, more consistent stuff might help his confidence, but showing less negative emotion on the mound is a must for 2016.
It’s possible that Anderson has more value in trade for the Dodgers, but 2015 was a step back and he could use next season to rebuild value or repackage himself as a reliever. He could return to Tulsa to start next season if the Dodgers wish to continue his development as a starter, but I most likely see his 2016 role in the Oklahoma City bullpen. He’s ranked as high as he is because the potential is still there for late relief, but next season is a make or break season for Anderson’s prospect value. If Anderson’s best stuff shows itself more frequently in relief, it’s possible that he could make his Dodgers’ debut at the end of the 2016 season.