Whence and whither our American Ian Anderson?

As to the former, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago:

Anderson blazed through the minors like the second coming of Soroka — indeed, his prospect ratings were very similar too, as he was the #24 prospect in Baseball America coming into 2019, one slot ahead of Soroka. Then he blazed his way through his first six starts after his 2020 callup, a sparkling 1.95 ERA in 32 1/3 innings, with an incredible 29.7% K-rate offsetting a perhaps slightly too-high 10.1% walk rate.

He was good in the playoffs, too, until he ran into the Dodger buzzsaw. But his one weakness came sharper into focus: control. So the question is: will he be like Fried, a fellow high draft pick with sterling scouting reports who improved his command over time? I’m strongly inclined to bet yes. But what’s true for every single pitcher is true for Ian Anderson: his ceiling will be dictated by his fastball command.

As to the latter, the sky is the limit, as this obscure British comedy sketch suggests!

The projections are of no particular value; Fangraphs has something called “ZiPS 2021,” but I’m pretty sure that those numbers are more than a year old and have not yet been updated with the stats from this year. And that, I’m pretty sure, is why Ian Anderson’s “projected” 2021 stats are virtually identical to Touki Toussaint and Tucker Davidson’s “projected” 2021 stats.

There’ll be more to go on in another few weeks or months, as Dan Szymborski and the Steamer folks and others go back to the data mines with their pickaxes and their VLOOKUPS. But not a whole lot more to go on, given that we have a grand total of six (very good) regular season stats, four (good, but shakier) postseason stats, and some alternate site work of genuinely unknown quality.

The biggest difference that we have now, even beyond those ten starts, is a clear understanding that Ian Anderson’s changeup is better than we’d thought, perhaps better than we hoped. Keith Law has consistently referred to it as “a 70” in scouting lingo, which means that it’s basically already one of the better pitches in the league. (It’s normalized where 50 is average, so 60 is one standard deviation above the mean, 70 is two standard deviations above the mean, and 80 is three standard deviations above the mean, and the highest end of the scale.)

This basically gives him the ceiling of a strong #2, and suggests he could be a cromulent #3/#4 effective immediately (meaning, let’s say, 2.5 WAR across 30 starts).

Of course, he could also perform the way he did in the playoffs, occasionally losing the strike zone entirely — because, after all, he’ll only be 23, and even though he had a few magical weeks, he still has very little experience succeeding at the highest level — and be more like a #5. That would still probably make him a #3 on our tattered staff, but tempered expectations are in order.

Realistic expectation: He could be 2016-2017 Zack Davies.
Pessimistic expectation: He could be 2018-2019 Zack Davies.
Optimistic expectation: He could be 2020 Zack Davies.

See there! A son is born
And we pronounce him fit to fight!