Phillies Have Sleeper Prospect in Right-Handed Pitcher Drew Anderson


Drew Anderson has not come up much in prospect discussion, but the Phillies believe he has enough potential to warrant a 40-man roster spot.

There were a lot of big-name prospects the Phillies added to the 40-man roster this winter from Dylan Cozens to Nick Williams. One name that flew under the radar in the flurry of additions was Drew Anderson, a right-handed pitcher who has yet to pitch above High-A Clearwater. Unlike other prospects still at that level, the club felt Anderson was vulnerable to selection in the Rule 5 draft and therefore added him to the roster.

As a late-round pick in the draft, Anderson garnered very little attention from prospect outlets through his first two years in the system. 2014 is where Anderson started to burst onto the scene with Class-A Lakewood, as he struck out 9.41 batters per nine innings and had a 3.15 fielding-independent pitching. However, he pitched in just nine games with the BlueClaws as he battled an arm injury.

Anderson returned and made two rehab appearances in the Gulf Coast League later in the season, but he never returned to Lakewood. It was confirmed that he underwent Tommy John surgery just prior to the 2015 season, causing him to miss the year in its entirety.

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When Anderson returned from surgery in May of 2016, he looked revitalized on the mound. His fastball velocity jumped after months of rehabbing and working out. Anderson pitched 70 innings in 2016 between Lakewood and Clearwater. He struck out ten batters per nine, carried a 1.10 WHIP, allowed opposing hitters a .216 batting average, and posted a 2.70 earned run average.

Those 70 innings were enough to warrant a 40-man roster spot this winter. Even Anderson was surprised when he found out he was added. He told Matt Gelb of, “Just hearing that, it caught me by surprise. I had no idea what my potential was.”

The move was no surprise to Phillies minor-league scouting director Joe Jordan. He told Jim Salisbury of Baseball America:

"“To some it might have seemed like, ‘Wow, you’re going to protect this guy?’ But to the people inside, the people that know our system, he was clearly a guy that was worthy of it and he had a lot of support,” Jordan said. “We’ve always liked him. We just lost him for a year basically. This year it was just baby steps, kid gloves, get him going and see what it looks like. Well, his stuff came back and he just needed mound time.”"

Jordan also told Gelb that other teams were aware of Anderson’s resurgence and had him as a possible target in the Rule 5 draft. According to Gelb, “Jordan said the debate on whether to protect Anderson was nonexistent.”

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Injury concerns will follow Anderson for the rest of his career after undergoing surgery, but he still has all the pieces to be a major-league starter. His fastball sits in the mid-90s, topping out at 97 at one point this season. Anderson also throws two average secondary pitches in his change and breaking ball, with the latter possibly becoming better in time. He blends them all together with solid command.

With Anderson still likely two or three seasons away from the major-leagues, any projection on his future role could very well be wildly different in just a few months.

For now, Anderson has all the makings of a back-end starter. If any of his tools plays up another grade or two – however likely or unlikely that may be – he could very well be pushed into the conversation as a mid-rotation starter. Jordan has even said that some scouts have Anderson as the top arm in Philadelphia’s system.

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While the injury label will always cast a dark cloud over Anderson, he bounced back strong from Tommy John surgery in 2016 and will hope to continue that success. He will be in Double-A at some point next season, if not to start the year.