Brett Anderson: Ace in the Making

In terms of pitching attributes, there’s no better blend for starters than high strikeout totals, few walks and ample ground balls. The hurlers who can miss bats, limit free passes and burn worms reign supreme.

Oakland’s Brett Anderson fits the profile. One of the shiny baubles picked up in the December 2007 Dan Haren deal, Anderson ripped through the minor leagues (9.7 K/9, 1.9 BB/9, 56.5 GB%) and made the A’s out of spring training last season. As a 21 year-old with scarce experience above A-ball, Anderson was arguably one of the top 15 starters in baseball.

In 175.1 innings, Anderson struck out 7.7 batters per nine innings, while walking just 2.31 hitters per nine. He remained a strong groundball pitcher in the show, with a 50.9 GB%. The lefty’s 3.61 xFIP, based on K’s, walks and a normalized home run per fly ball rate, placed 14th among starters.

In terms of stuff, Anderson went from good to great during the course of the season. Take a look at his velocity chart for 2009:

In April, Anderson sat 91 MPH with his fastball, with an 82.7 MPH slider. By the summer, he was averaging 93-94 MPH with a mid-80’s slider. Overall, Anderson’s heater wasn’t a great pitch in 2009 (-0.56 runs per 100 pitches), nor was his changeup (-0.47). However, he featured some of the best breaking stuff in the majors.

Anderson’s slider (tossed nearly a third of the time) was worth +2.51 runs per 100 pitches. In terms of overall runs (wSL), Anderson’s +22.2 topped all big league starters. His high-70’s curveball also rated well, though the sample is small considering that he threw the pitch less than seven percent (+0.25 runs/100).

Trip Somers’ Pitch F/X tool has different pitch classifications (his site classifies most of Anderson’s breaking pitches as curveballs). Whatever you want to call his pitches, Anderson showed exceptional control when he spun a breaking ball. He threw both the slider and curve for a strike 65.1 percent of the time (62.7 percent MLB average for the slider and 58 percent average for the curve).

For 2010, CHONE (3.92 FIP) and ZiPS (3.78 FIP) both project FIPs in the high three’s. The FANS are even giddier, envisioning a 3.48 FIP.

As that fan forecast attests, people are privy to Anderson’s talents. But he still might be a relative value entering the season. According to MockDraftCentral, the 22 year-old is, on average, going 35th among starting pitchers. That’s after regression candidate Jair Jurrjens and health question mark Brandon Webb.

The only thing standing in between Anderson and acedom is health. The A’s were pretty cautious with him in ’09, limiting Anderson to 94 pitches per start, but his innings total did increase by about 70 from 2008 to 2009 (it’s closer to 40 if you count his pitching for Team USA and a pair of Triple-A playoff starts in ’08). Given Anderson’s talent and modest ADP, he could be the rare top prospect who’s actually a bargain on draft day.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on and, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

19 Responses to “Brett Anderson: Ace in the Making”

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  1. DonCoburleone says:

    I took him in the 11th round of a 12 team league (130th overall), and I’m getting beat up by my league mates for taking him so early… Still I got beat up last year for taking Greinke in Round 10 and look how that one turned out!

    Seriously though is 130th overall too early to take Anderson?

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  2. DonCoburleone says:

    Here are a few guys I could have gotten that were taken shortly after I drafted Anderson: Garza, Danks, Shields, Jurrjens

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  3. poodski says:

    He went 134th and 84th in my last two drafts.

    I wanted him but not that bad.

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  4. SF 55 for life says:

    I look Anderson at the same exact spot (literally the same 11th round, 12 teams, I had the 10th pick, overall pick130. . . oh and I had Greinke last year but in the 15th round) and people also said I took him too early. It didn’t seem unreasonably early to me. I was targeting him a round later, but my pitching was so terrible at that point that I felt like I shouldn’t wait.

    His ADP at MDC is 152 while his ADP at Yahoo is 136 so we didn’t overdraft that bad at all.

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  5. Dave says:

    I got him in both my major leagues, pick 121 in my snake draft league and for $10 in my auction keeper. considering I can keep him for just $12 next year, if he continues to break out he’ll be a bargain. I’m thinking he’s fully capable of 13 wins, 3.50 ERA and 170ish K’s. That’s pretty useful as a #3 or #4 fantasy starter.

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  6. Matt B says:

    I got him in a 12-team 5×5 h2h keeper league at pick 116. Pitchers are taken early in this league, following my Anderson pick went: Oswalt, Hudson, Shields, Webb, De La Rosa, Floyd, E Santana, Slowey.

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  7. rotofan says:

    I took Anderson with the 138th pick in a 14-team draft. That was after Porcello, Shields, Garza and Danks (there had been a run on starting pitchers). Gavin Floyd went a few picks later.

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  8. Jeff says:

    I took him with the 8.04 pick in a 14-team league, 102nd overall. I needed a SP, and he was simply the best SP left, with the proceeding SP’s taken being Baker, Shields, Weaver, Webb, Lackey and Jurrjens. We also use QS instead of wins, which I think boosts his value.

    He should also benefit from a great defense and a spacious park.

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  9. Victor K says:

    I think Anderson is a guy that you should keep your eye on after the 10th round (maybe sooner in a keeper league). Anyone who saw Anderson pitch the last couple of months had to be impressed. He was throwing gas at the end of the year (hit 98mph vs the RedSOX) and his “slurve” was just buckling hitters knees. He just started lifting weights last year and that really helped his velocity. I would draft w/ confidence.

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    • DaveNJ says:

      Agreed. His value is a bit higher in keeper leagues. I ended up moving for him in a trade, and he was pretty much the crux of a 3 for 3 deal. Anderson’s numbers for a rookie were startlingly good, and he’ll be playing in Oakland for a while. It’s not inconceivable that he could be a borderline fantasy ace this year and a full blown one next year. Given his age that’s worth overpaying for if you’re not necessarily going to contend this year.

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  10. Matt C says:

    I don’t understand how he still is going so late in drafts. It baffles me, this isn’t the only site talking about him being a breakout candidate either.(Any knowledgeable fan could see that coming without being told though) Almost every site is. I probably reached a bit for him grabbing him in the 10th round of a 12 team league but I thought for sure the cat was gonna be out of the bag and I was gonna have to reach a bit to get him. After getting blasted for it by other league members I realized that I probably could’ve held off a couple rounds and still got him. Oh well better safe than sorry.

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  11. Rudy Gamble says:

    Aren’t you a bit concerned about how dependent he is on the slider/slurve? How many lefties can you name that had multi-year success with such dependence on a breaking pitch? I can think of Carlton, Randy, and Zito (and Zito’s curve ball has never been thrown as hard).

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  12. Kirk says:

    could someone explain why hitters are so successful at making contact on his pitches in the zone. Because all of his stats suggest he’s going to be a stud. At least all of them except that.

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  13. Brian says:

    Zito never threw as hard as anderson

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  14. Brian says:

    I picked up Anderson in the 10th round of my 12 team keeper league (113th overall). Had him last year and wanted to keep him coming into the season but couldn’t do it. Happy to pick him up again.

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  15. Matt says:

    I just traded Jose Reyes, Jeff Niemann and Matt Lindstrom for Billy Butler and Brett Anderson


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