The Plummeting Stock of Lars Anderson

The Indians acquired Lars Anderson from the Red Sox on Tuesday, sending knuckleballing prospect Steven Wright — not to be confused with this guy — to Boston. Anderson was once considered one of the top prospects in the game, but struggled in major league cups of coffee (or shots of espresso given how short his major league stints were in 2011-12) and was never viewed as a viable long-term solution at first base or designated hitter.

From 2008-10, however, he was the talk of the rumor mill. His name popped up in practically every Red Sox trade rumor. Last offseason, the Athletics were interested in him as part of the Andrew Bailey package. In July 2011, the Athletics were close to acquiring him in exchange for Rich Harden.

In 2009, Anderson was frequently discussed as part of a potential prospect package for Roy Halladay. The year before that he was mentioned as a key part of a rumor surrounding then-Padres starter Jake Peavy.

As recently as two years ago, Anderson was viewed as a key part of potential returns on all-stars and award winners. Since then, his stock has fallen to the point that he only netted the Red Sox a risky Double-A knuckleballer.

Baseball America ranked Anderson #40 in their 2008 preseason rankings. He hit .317/.408/.513 at High-A Lancaster that season before making the move up to the Eastern League and improving to a .316/.436/.526 line. He shot all the way up to #17 on their 2009 list, but struggled in a full season with Portland.

Anderson hit just .233/.328/.345, a big step back. He fell all the way to #87 entering 2010, and stopped appearing on lists after that. He hit .355/.408/.677 with Portland to start the season but spent most of the year at Triple-A Pawtucket, posting a pedestrian .262/.340/.428 line.

His Triple-A numbers have essentially stabilized since then, as he hit .265/.369/.422 last year and currently sports a .259/.359/.415 line. While the on-base percentage is nice, Anderson’s power has disappeared, which makes it much tougher to stick at his natural position. He still features the physical tools that made scouts gush over him in the first place, and he is still young at 24 years old, but he hasn’t lived up to the hype.

With Adrian Gonzalez signed for the foreseeable future and Anderson’s stock on the decline, the Red Sox had to pull the trigger while he could still bring back even someone like Wright. But one man’s trash could become another man’s treasure, and it just so happens that the Indians have had some of the worst first base production in baseball this season. With a putrid .286 wOBA from first baseman, primarily Casey Kotchman, the Indians have the third worst first base batting line in baseball, and the second-worst in the AL: only the Mariners have fared worse.

Anderson isn’t likely to play much in the majors this season, and might not even fit the Indians plan for 2013, but he gives them some more depth at an obvious position of need. He also has an option left, so the Indians don’t need to immediately procure a big-league roster spot for him. Since he was on the Red Sox 40-man roster, the Indians will have to make a corresponding move, but in any event he’s bound for minor league duty until September, when it makes more sense to give him regular at-bats.

He has always toted solid plate discipline skills and his first-base defense has improved in recent years as well. But Anderson has struggled to make contact as he progressed throughout the Red Sox farm system, and while the power is obviously there when he connects — he hit a prodigious home run off of the scoreboard at McCoy Stadium this year — connecting has been a struggle in and of itself.

The Indians bolstered depth at an area of need with this move, picking up a young-ish prospect previously considered one of the very best in baseball. But his power has never truly materialized and his defense isn’t going to be enough to earn him an everyday gig without more consistent and improved offensive production. Anderson may yet figure it all out, but he hasn’t made the appropriate adjustments in three years at Triple-A. Right now he remains a cross-your-fingers flier instead of a viable solution at an area of need.



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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.


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Lewie Pollis
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

Good article, but even in September I’m not sure it makes sense to give Anderson much playing time. The Indians already have a slugging failed top prospect first baseman in Triple-A: Matt LaPorta, who is outhitting Anderson this year (even after a cold streak his OPS has sat in the high .800’s) and is right-handed (the Indians’ lineup is pretty lefty-heavy). For some reason Cleveland doesn’t want any part of him—he got called up earlier this year, played three games, and then literally sat on the bench for a week without a single plate appearance—but unless they see something the Red Sox don’t, he’s basically a worse version of LaPorta.

saskatunes
Guest
saskatunes
4 years 1 month ago

Anderson does have a crazy high walk rate close to 14%. Not saying that makes up for his lack of SLG, though. I usually like to stay optimistic on guys that have a good enough eye to take a lot of walks, and he’s shown he can. Just weird it’s also coupled with a pretty high K rate.

I do agree it is puzzling that they don’t give LaPorta a nice long look. Not like they have much to lose.

Jason
Guest
Jason
4 years 1 month ago

If the Ks are called strikes, it could just be that he’s not swinging the bat enough. The walk rate would go down and the K rate up as the pitchers start throwing more strikes.

Simon
Guest
Simon
4 years 1 month ago

LaPorta’s not exactly been lacking in chances. He had basically two full seasons to nail down the job and couldn’t get it done. They may well have concluded he’ll never be a playable first baseman at the big league level by now.

George
Guest
George
4 years 1 month ago

As a Red Sox fan I was waiting to see where Lars Anderson would end up, as it was only a matter of time before he was traded, and it is unfair to leave a guy perennially stuck in AAA purgatory. At least in Cleveland he will have a shot to show if he can stick it in the majors. I really hope that someday down the line everything finally clicks for him and he becomes the player people envisioned so many years ago.

RC
Guest
RC
4 years 1 month ago

“and it is unfair to leave a guy perennially stuck in AAA purgatory.”

He wasn’t “stuck”. He hasn’t been good enough to justify being advanced. He’s a defensively poor 1B putting up a .775 OPS in AAA. Thats, at best, a replacement level player (and probably not even that)

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 1 month ago

I think this article should be titled, “The Most Over-Rated Prospect of the Decade.” I was one of many, many people who, after we actually saw Lars after BA and others had pumped him as Next, couldn’t believe our eyes. Saw him in a spring training AB maybe three years ago when he stock was sky-high and was shocked at how mechanical his swing was, and just completely dead hands. Apparently he’s tried to iron some things out, but the hype machine authored this story. I can’t believe anybody who actually watched him believed the hype.

PiratesHurdles
Guest
PiratesHurdles
4 years 1 month ago

Brandon Wood begs to differ. BA called him the next Cal Ripken.

B N
Guest
B N
4 years 1 month ago

He was the next Cal Ripken! If, by that, you meant he played about as well as Cal would have if you brought him back from retirement in his 50’s…

JF145
Guest
JF145
4 years 1 month ago

“I think this article should be titled, “The Most Over-Rated Prospect of the Decade.”

He never ranked higher than 17 on BA’s list. I could probably find 50 guys in the last decade who placed higher than 17 and never turned into anything (which we can’t even say about Lars yet).

So, I’m glad you played high school ball and picked up some scouting terms over the years, but no, try again.

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 1 month ago

So you proved your case by accepting my point that he was merely over-rated?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan
4 years 1 month ago

His case was simply that he was far from the most overrated prospect of the decade.

Yeah, he was overrated, but that happens plenty often. He peaked at 17 on BA’s list in 2009, here are some other players who outranked him that year who haven’t come close to meeting the hype associated with them:

3. Colby Rasmus
6. Travis Snider
8. Cameron Maybin
12. Pedro Alvarez

That’s four from one season alone. Lars Anderson was overrated, but he wasn’t even the most overrated prospect of 2009 (I think that quite easily goes to Colby Rasmus), much less the last few years.

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 1 month ago

I said nothing about rankings and I made no reference to other players. There was a lot of hype about Lars since his Rookie league days, especially over at BA. It was simply not warranted.

To your point, Colby Rasmus, an above average MLB player, was clearly more over-rated than a guy one year younger who is struggling in AAA, but who still ranked in the top 20 overall? Come on.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan
4 years 1 month ago

Your statement of “The Most Over-Rated Prospect of the Decade” is inherently a comparison to all other prospects, whether you named names or not. That’s just simple common sense logic.

As for Colby Rasmus, he was the number three prospect (A significant gulf from seventeen) and he has been what you said to a T, merely a barely above average Major League hitter (Career OPS+ of 102, essentially on the cusp of “league average”) with inconsistent (At best) to poor (At worst) defense when he was touted as the second best position player prospect in all of baseball. Colby Rasmus’ career trajectory is essentially the equivalent of if Mike Trout came out hitting like Coco Crisp.

matt w
Guest
matt w
4 years 1 month ago

Pedro Alvarez has 2.4 WAR in 355 PA this year, you know.

B N
Guest
B N
4 years 1 month ago

Anderson was somewhat overrated, but he was never rated all that high. If I had to guess the most overrated prospect of the decade, it might be Lastings Milledge. After peaking around the 9th best prospect, he’s produced about 1 WAR across well over 400 Games and is playing in Japan.

Below average offense and defense from a corner outfielder? That’s a harsh combination from a guy once compared (somehow with a straight face) to Willie Mayes. Turns out, he wasn’t even Willie Mayes Hayes! By comparison, Anderson might still be a useful player in the right context. If he gets time in the majors and produces 1 WAR in a season (or even two seasons), he will have already outproduced Milledge while never being ranked as high.

JF145
Guest
JF145
4 years 1 month ago

Corey Patterson ranked THIRD in 2000 and SECOND in 2001. And that was after being 16 in 1999.

That took about 20 seconds. I rest my case.

Dave (UK)
Guest
Dave (UK)
4 years 1 month ago

Not in the last decade but still a point well made.

JF145
Guest
JF145
4 years 1 month ago

He said “the decade”, not “the last decade”

eckmuhl
Member
eckmuhl
4 years 1 month ago

You certainly have a strong case, but I’m not sure Patterson clinches it. After all, he has amassed 11.5 WAR over his career. I wouldn’t bet on Lars matching that. But, yeah, there is a pool of players the size of Lake Michigan to choose from when one is looking at highly regarded prospects who busted.

JF145
Guest
JF145
4 years 1 month ago

I think it’s safe to say a guy who ranked top 3 twice had a lot more hype than Lars Anderson.

B N
Guest
B N
4 years 1 month ago

I’d actually say Patterson, while overhyped, produced all right. It’s worthwhile to really look at how many players actually put up 11 WAR in their careers. It’s less than you’d think. Considering 11 WAR is worth something like $30-40m, if you drafted a Corey Patterson in every draft, you wouldn’t complain. Even most #3 prospects don’t necessarily match that.

KJ
Guest
KJ
4 years 1 month ago

If he stays on his current AAA pace, and can uptick his BA a little, his season won’t look too different from that of Billy Butler last year, and look at him now. Granted, MLB vs. AAA, but seems like a low-risk trade for Cleveland and Lord knows the Sox could use some more pitching.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
4 years 1 month ago

Let’s tell Steven Wright jokes.

One morning I put on my glasses and the prescription ran out.

dirtbag
Guest
dirtbag
4 years 1 month ago

It’s a small world, but I wouldn’t want to paint it.

I bought some batteries, but they weren’t included.

Brazen Reader
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

I have a life-size map of the world.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan
4 years 1 month ago

Hey, remember that time the Rangers asked for Buchholz in exchange for Saltalamacchia and then we got him for nothing a year or two down the line?

Yeah, that just happened. That said, Saltalamacchia has turned into a relatively productive major league player (Albeit remarkably streaky, but man his power, leading the MLB in ISO at C).

I like this move for both sides. The Sox were essentially clearing out a 40 Man roster spot by shipping out Anderson and the Indians picked up a low risk, decent upside 1B who has at the least had stellar walk rates in the minors.

Anderson’s ceiling may look pretty low at this point, but he’s 24 and walk rates are something that tend to translate well to the majors, he’s a good buy low move. Not like they gave up anything necessary for him.

Wright, well, I’m more concerned with the fact he can be tucked in the minors than anything. Who knows with him, though, he only recently started playing with the knuckleball from what I’ve heard and their career trajectory is weird, so who knows what the Sox got with him.

The Royal We?
Guest
The Royal We?
4 years 1 month ago

“We”? You’re in the Red Sox org?

Will
Guest
Will
4 years 1 month ago

Lars is a victim of the rise of legitimate testing for PED. What his game mainly lacks is power. Oh what could have been if he came up during the steroid era.

Seener
Guest
Seener
4 years 1 month ago

As someone who as actually seen Anderson play a fair amount I can say he has trouble hitting lefties (like most lefties) he has some pop like maybe 15 HR/yr and modest average but first class at getting walks. He has + defense at 1b, way better than you might think from reading back issues of BA. The steroid era would not help him because he’s a healthy California type guy. In fact that is a problem. He does not have the hunger to play baseball. His head is not 100% in the game, he would rather read a book.

Rbr
Guest
Rbr
4 years 1 month ago

Steven Wright is growing a beard for a film… that he plans to see.

JF145
Guest
JF145
4 years 1 month ago

“I said nothing about rankings and I made no reference to other players. There was a lot of hype about Lars since his Rookie league days, especially over at BA. It was simply not warranted. ”

You mentioned BA “pumping” him, are you actually going to pretend you weren’t talking about their ranking of him? What the hell else could it mean? Pathetic backtracking, dude.

Paul
Guest
Paul
4 years 1 month ago

Once upon a time when people read these things called articles, or bothered to read a chat transcript where the answers might be more than 140 characters, lots of people wrote complete sentences about how great Lars Anderson was. There is no backtracking. You are the one who brought up the rankings, which are pretty meaningless. On this very site Carson Cistulli broke down how successful players are according to their ranking on that list, and it’s not a very impressive track record. I couldn’t care less about the list, so quit trolling and get ready for junior high to start back up again.

Brazen Reader
Guest
4 years 1 month ago

Almost by definition anyone ranked in the Boston, Philly, Yankee, Mets system is overrated because of their fans, beat writers and local radio guys. Those guys aren’t stupidly overrating their guys more than other fans/media types, its just the sheer volume of mentions.

The prospect names of annual playoff contenders come up at every trade deadline: Fernando Martinez, Jesus Montero, Wily Mo Pena, Bucholz and that type got mentioned in every market that was a seller, on every Buster Olney trade report on ESPN, by bloggy hypotheticals, and by all the commenters.

So give Paul a break, anyone who follows national MLB news has heard as much if not more about BP 17th ranked Lars Anderson then whomever BP ranked as the best guy in Pittsburgh, Minnesota or wherever else (or even BP #3, the Cubs Corey Patterson).

isavage30
Guest
isavage30
4 years 1 month ago

I fail to see how you can make any justification for this pickup from Cleveland’s end. From his numbers and previous prospect ranking, he looks like a left-handed, poor-man’s Laporta. On a team that already has too many left-handed hitters, so AA lefties called up for spot starts tend to shut them out. If they replace Kotchman with Anderson over Laporta, I don’t know what they’d be basing that decision on. At least Laporta can hit AAA pitching. And is right handed, even if he usually has a reverse split. Replacing Kotchman with either isn’t really acceptable, but giving up a guy with some potential for a lesser Laporta looks like another bad move in a string of bad moves by Cleveland’s new GM.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan
4 years 1 month ago

A 27 who’s never performed over AA has more potential than a 24 year old who’s at least got great walk numbers?

They traded one lottery ticket for another. Anyone on either side either complaining that they gave up too much or acting like they got a steal (Essentially the two extremes) is kidding themselves.

isavage30
Guest
isavage30
4 years 1 month ago

Wright is a special case. He just started throwing the knuckleball two years ago, and he’s been successful with it. He was a marginal prospect before developing the knuckler, had a fastball in the low 90s and made it to AAA and reinvented himself and was sent down to work on the knuckler.

Wright would have been an option next year for a rotation spot if things continued to go well. It’s possible they don’t think his knuckler will ever play at the big league level, but that’s not what they’ve been saying, it’s been getting good reviews, and he was obviously able to at least get AA batters to swing and miss and induce weak contact: stat-wise he was having the best season of any starter in their system. Anderson looks like a lottery ticket they don’t need. They already have a bunch of failed 1b/LF prospects in AAA who are quad-A types, and one in Cleveland in Shelley Duncan. The only reason you wouldn’t call Anderson AAAA, is unlike Laporta, he hasn’t even done well in AAA.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan
4 years 1 month ago

The difference between Lars Anderson and guys like Laporta (And especially Duncan) is that age is still, for the most part, on his side.

Anderson has struggled at AAA and he’s a definite lottery ticket, but he’s only 24 and he’s never had an opportunity to really play at the MLB level.

Look at Kevin Youkilis for a comparable player. Big OBP guy, didn’t really grow into his power until his later twenties. He OPS’d .543 and .753 in his first two trips to AAA.

I’m not saying Anderson is going to be Kevin Youkilis, but to say he’s a AAAA guy like Laporta and Duncan when he’s three years younger than Laporta and close to a decade younger than Duncan is a poor comparison.

He basically has about as much upside as Wright.

Chuck
Guest
Chuck
4 years 1 month ago

It’s a penny for your thoughts but you put your two cents in… someone’s making a penny.

Was it the Red Sox or Indians?

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