2009 Prospect Duds: Lars Anderson

Boston Red Sox first base prospect Lars Anderson entered 2009 as the top overall prospect in the system, according to Kevin Goldstein at Baseball Prospectus. Anderson, 21, had originally been signed to an over-slot deal after being selected out of high school in the 18th round of the 2006 amateur draft.

In pre-2009 comments, Goldstein stated, “He projects for big numbers in all triple-slash categories, and should come lumbering into the middle of the Boston lineup by 2010.”

I was even more aggressive in my adoration of Anderson prior to 2009 and said, “Lars Anderson is the club’s top prospect and he could be knocking on the big-league door by mid-2009… He had an impressive walk rate of 17.9 BB%, but struck out at a rate of 32.3 K%.”

Interestingly, it wasn’t Anderson’s strikeout rate that doomed his 2009 season. It actually dropped from 32.3 K% in 133 double-A at-bats in 2008 to 25.5 K% this season. His walk rate was lower, but it remained more than respectable at 12.4 BB%. The most glaring drop was in the batting average. It dipped from .317 in high-A/double-A in 2008 to .233 in double-A in 2009. His BABIP played a huge part in the shift as it went from .367 (A+) and .435 (AA) to .293. His line-drive rate went from 19.9% (cumulative) last year to 13.0% in ’09.

It’s clear that Anderson’s small sample size numbers at double-A in ’08 (.316/.436/.526 in 133 at-bats) helped to gloss over the impact that the launching-pad-known-as-Lancaster had on his numbers (.921 OPS). That success may have very well buoyed his confidence for his late-season promotion. Even so, a .250 drop in OPS is shocking to the system. After slugging five homers in 133 double-A at-bats in 2008, Anderson hit just nine all year in ’09 in 447 at-bats. His ISO dropped from .200 to .112.

The good news is that Anderson’s plate rates held strong despite his struggles. His pre- and post-All-Star numbers are so different that it’s easy to speculate that a hidden injury may have been the root cause for the steep decline (.272/.366/.413 vs .154/.250/.208). The really good news is that Anderson played the season at the age of 21, so he has plenty of time to turn things around. Incumbent first baseman Kevin Youkilis or even Casey Kotchman can easily hold down the fort until the youngster is ready. He’ll just have to watch over his shoulder for Anthony Rizzo.




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect and rookie analysis. He also operates AstrosBall.com and can be reached via email at: marchulet@astrosball.com, or follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

20 Responses to “2009 Prospect Duds: Lars Anderson”

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  1. Joe R says:

    No Red Sox fan is panicing yet. 2010 will have a roster of Victor Martinez, Kevin Youkilis, Mike Lowell, Casey Kotchman, and David Ortiz, and Jeff Bailey still in AAA if we need him (I think). Anderson has plenty of time to work out whatever the heck happened to him in 2009 (I assume it was his LD rate).

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    • joser says:

      In my experience Red Sox fans are always panicking about something — a multi-decade inferiority complex doesn’t evaporate overnight, even after two WS wins.

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      • Joe R says:

        This is minor league prospects, you think 90% of Red Sox nation knows shit about minor league farmhands?

        Most people who even know who Lars Anderson is probably have no idea how much he stunk it up in Portland this season. The good thing about a huge fanbase is team success. The bad thing is that you get a higher ratio of people who have nothing to add to a baseball conversation outside of JD Drew’s batting average killing the team or how Dice-K only cares about the WBC.

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      • Omar says:

        To Joe R, Lars Anderson got plenty of hype during the Teixeira saga. He was on the front page of BDD, and he was listed as a reason as to why Teixeira wasn’t necessary. The fans that actually like the team know who he is, the B cap wearing d-bags and annoying chicks who think it’s cute to wear a B cap that infest college campuses may not know who he is…then again, they didn’t know who Jason Bay was prior to the Manny trade.

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      • Joe R says:

        True. But like I’ve said before, when you have a fanbase like Boston’s, your bound to have a fair share of idiots. Ones that tend to make their mind up about a guy within their first 10-15 games. It just stuns me when people claim to be rapid fans of a team and then show such blatant ignorance to everything outside the little bubble; why be a fan of a team when you’re not a fan of the sport?

        /random tangent

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    • Omar says:

      Were they really counting on Anderson? I mean even if it wasn’t just a bad year, it’s pretty dumb to count on a prospect who hasn’t even made it past AA to hold a future roster spot.

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  2. Sonny R. says:

    Mets fans were hoping that Anderson would be involved in the Wagner swap. Quite unfortunate that the deal turned out to be a pure salary dump on the Mets behalf.

    I personally feel that Ike Davis has surpassed Lars Anderson as a pro prospect.

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  3. Nick says:

    One thing about Rizzo is, his defense gets glowing reports, whereas most agree Lars is average at best. That puts him a leg up on Lars to begin with, and when you look at what Rizzo did this year while he was still feeling the effects of his cancer treatment, it’s not beyond reason to be more excited about him than Lars.

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  4. Marc H says:

    I agree with Sonny R in that Ike Davis’ season surpassed that of Lars.
    With Delgado far past the meaty part of his career curve and Danny Murphy poised to take over at his natural position of 2B when the Mets trade Luis Castillo in the off-season, Ike emerging as the possible stud the Mets drafted will only ensure that the Mets will more than welcome Ike as the future at Firstbase in Citi Field.

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    • Jeff P says:

      Uh, Daniel Murphy is about as much a natural second basemen as I am. I know they tried him there a bit in Bingo and the AFL, but he is basically a 4C guy.

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  5. Marc H says:

    Well, Murphy was a 3B in the minors, but lacks the defense to stay there. Wright might have something to say about that. I never said that Murphy deserves to become a 2B, but he is an INF by trade, not an OF. The Mets put him there due to injury in 08 and we all see how that has worked out.
    If Murphy was the answer in LF, Omar wouldn’t worry about making it a priority to fill the need in left during the off-season. Plus, I never said Murphy derserved to become the Mets 2B. Playing Murphy at 2B gives the Mets a chance to keep his bat in the lineup while allowing him to play a more natural postion, allows Castillo to be traded while he is still worth just a little something and clears a path for Delgado to play 1-2 more seasons until Ike is ready.
    Never did I say Murphy deserved to be the Mets 2B. I still feel he will play there sometime in 2010.

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  6. Dana L says:

    There is some feeling within the Redsox fan base that Rizzo is a better prospect now but what can you project from A ball stats….not much. He is reputed to have a stud body though and good lateral range. He looks like a Teixiera kind of guy potentially in that he can both field and hit. Will he make the transition though to have better power numbers? Rizzo is making steady progress though in his plate discipline and really in all areas especially considering that he is just now recovering from Cancer treatments this year.

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  7. Paul Thomas says:

    Minor league line drive rates are NOT reliable. They are severely influenced by league policies, not to mention “how many beers the 28-year-old two-time divorcee official scorer had before the game started.”

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  8. MoZer Bats says:

    He needs to swing a MoZer Bat.

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  9. Don says:

    Its pretty clear to all that Anderson had a throwaway year, and all you have to do to find out “why” is read a few of the myriad interviews he gave this year to blogs, websites and locals. This is a kid that might be too cerebral to handle baseball. What I mean by that is Anderson seems to overthink everything and he really struggles with his confidence. This is a smart guy who was signed to play at Cal (Cal Berkeley, not Cal State Dumbass) and reads books titled: The Psychology of Dissappointment. Based on the stuff I have read, he almost seems concumed by psychology. With all that said, it strikes me that despite being a laid back Californian, this kid does not leave 0-4s at the Park. Instead, he struggles mightily with his confidence and that was the story of his 2009 season. Does he pull it together in 2010? Perhaps, but if this kid misses, I think it will be because of makeup and not tools.

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    • Jon says:

      You have some amazing insight into someone youve never met.

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      • blackoutyears says:

        I think the use of the word *might* in Don’s post indicated that he was surmising. He then proceeded to back his surmise up with specific references based on interviews he’s read. Hardly worthy of snark. Read. Digest. Move on.

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      • Don says:

        Jon …..
        I’m sorry if I am not bringing primary source material to the conversation (as everyone else has done by citing such revealing insights as: His K rate has improved while his isloated power has fallen) but sometimes you don’t have to be in the room to read between the lines. According to a July interview with Fire Brand …..here is Lars actual reading list …

        Mind Gym: An Athletes Guide to Inner Excellence
        Change the Way You See Everything
        Remember, Be Here Now (a book on budhism)

        If you think that reading list is “normal” for a 21 year-old, even a professional athelte, then I would suggest you have an odd definition of “normal.” Alternatively, I think its evidence of a kid who is struggling with his confidence and searching for some answers. More to the point …..Hulet’s article did nothing but describe a problem. All I was trying to do is bring some attention to the “why.”

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  10. Lukas says:

    From watching him in a few games early in the year in Portland my take is that his swing was disjointed and he seemed to have no rhythm. It was quite long at times and it looked like he realized it and was adjusting by starting too early, resulting in some ugly hacks. Then a few other times he got way out in front of the ball and just pushed soft grounders to the right side of the infield. It wasn’t at all the fluid swing that his scouting reports from 2008 and earlier described. He really did seem to be lacking confidence. I’m not sure how he looked post all-star break when his numbers were much better.

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  11. Hee Derastel says:

    Tawni is my favorite person on the show, Sonny with a chance is awesome! Thanks for your blog, I enjoyed this post!

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