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Chris Anderson's early season struggles a real concern

Chris Anderson battling command and diminished stuff early this season
Chris Anderson battling command and diminished stuff early this season
Photo: Jordan Suskind | Tulsa Drillers

Chris Anderson

If Anderson's prospect star appeared to lose luster last season, early season returns suggest it could be burning out.  Anderson struggled for strikes for much of his short outing Thursday, opening with five straight pitches that missed up and arm side, and he spent the rest of the night chasing his command.

Anderson's velocity was also off the pace from last season.  His fastball hovered around 91 mph for much of the evening and did not show the plus sink he flashed last season.  He was able to generate a few swings and misses when Hooks batters chased his slider out of the strike zone, but the pitch had slurve shape and was hit hard when it caught the zone.

Anderson looked to be fighting his release point all game long.  His upper body was late early in his outing, and already an average athlete, Anderson was slow to make the mechanical adjustments.  To his credit, despite struggling for the majority of his outing, Anderson didn't show much of the same negative body language on the mound that he did last season.

While still early in the season, Anderson has amassed eleven walks in eight innings and has been under 50% strike percentage in both starts.  Coupled with the decline in stuff and velocity, I wonder if something might be wrong physically.  He was worked hard in college and has taken his turn in the rotation at least 23 times in each of the last three seasons.

Even if that's just anecdotal evidence, what is clear is that he isn't helping his team right now and might be due a return to Extended Spring Training for some work on his mechanics.  I still contend his future role is likely that of a reliever, but moving him now would not get him the innings to work through his struggles.  It's just two games, but two waving big red flags.

Willie Calhoun

Calhoun showed his aptitude for hitting with two shift beating hits to the left side.  The first hit was a well placed gamble with two strikes, as he shot his hands through late to punch it just past the left side fielder.  The second hit was a clean hard hit through the left side.  Calhoun's approach at the plate was still focused on pulling balls with authority, but his opportunistic singles show he's still willing to make adjustments when necessary.

Calhoun didn't get many chances in the field, but one small play did stand out.  The Dodgers had a chance to nail a Hooks runner trying for a double after a hit off the left field wall.  Devin Ahart's throw was strong and in time, but Calhoun took the short hop flat footed and further away from the bag.  It's a minor detail, but I'd rather see the infielder trust his hands, stay low on the throw and pick the ball just off the bounce, and an instinctual defender with soft hands will do this.  Again, nitpicking here, and Calhoun will just need to be average defensively if his bat lives up to its potential.

Alex Verdugo

I was surprised to see Corpus Christi shift so heavily on Verdugo given his batted ball heat maps from last season.  Verdugo was able to beat it once by fighting a pitch off his hands and lining it just to the left side of second base.  His numbers may be low in the first week of the season, but Verdugo still showed easy bat to ball skills.  Joe Musgrove could tie him up on pitches inside, where he tended to get too rotational in his swing, but Verdugo managed to square a few balls up tonight.

Defensively, Verdugo showed good closing speed on a few balls to the right center gap.  He did take a poor read initially on a ball tailing away in the gap but closed quickly on the liner to make the play.  Nothing overly difficult or noteworthy, but in one brief look he appeared fine in centerfield.

Kyle Farmer

The Drillers faced stiff competition in Joe Musgrove on the mound.  Farmer, however, looked comfortable all night in the box and proved what a solid hitter he can be with easy bat to ball skills.  Farmer doubled down the line in the first inning and added another single later against Musgrove.  Farmer was quick to attack pitches in the zone, as he did all last season.

Farmer is a rare prospect as a catcher with a 50-55 grade hit tool.  That doesn't make him a star per say, but it could make him a regular for a second division club, which would exceed the expectations of most prospect media outlets.