The Florida State League. Extremely kind to pitchers, a hard knock life (or not at all depending on your viewpoint) for hitters. For years, the country’s southernmost league has had a rich history of stymieing young hitters, including some of the game’s most successful ones. From 2008 to 2013, FSL parks barely rendered numbers north of the mendoza line as they held hitters to just a .256/.326/.372/.698 line, 4.2 runs per game, and a home run percentage of just 1.5. Most of those figures were the lowest in all of minor league baseball. One of the biggest catalysts for the minuscule offensive figures is the home of the Jupiter Hammerheads, Roger Dean Stadium. Over that same six season span, the cavernous park which boasts dimensions of 335/400/325 and is situated in a wide-open space just miles in from the coast which allows swirling sea breeze to become trapped over it’s surface held Florida State League offenses to park factors of 0.876 in runs, .757 in homers and .949 in hits where 1 is average, anything over 1 favors hitters and anything under 1 favors pitchers. The same trend has continued in recent years as Roger Dean has never once posted a park factor over 1 in any category in at least the past eight years. That is why when a player comes along and is able to accomplish what Brian Anderson was able to accomplish in April hitting .313/.412/.470 including .320/.382/.500 at the Dean, scouts heads snap off their necks as they quickly take notice. And that is the reason why he is my first prospect of the month for the 2016 season.
A third round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2014, Anderson forwent his senior year as a Razorback following a .318/.418/.467 NCAA career to join the professional ranks. After signing, Anderson made the move to upstate New York and joined Batavia for the beginning of the short season. After getting his feet wet there by hitting .273/.333/.455 with 3 homers and 12 RBI, he made the move to full-season ball in Greensboro for 39 games. In just 153 ABs, Anderson smashed eight homers, drove in 37 runs and held down a .378 OBP by way of a 28/13 K/BB. His .516 SLG lead the Hoppers that year amongst players with at least 100 ABs, positioning Anderson as Baseball America’s 9th best organizational prospect headed in to 2015. That year, Anderson came falling back down to earth, managing to hit just .235/.304/.340. However, that wasn’t without cause. Not only was it the first time Anderson had played more than 65 games in his career at any level, they all came in the aforementioned offensively suppressing Florida State League at the highest level he’s ever played at. This year, Anderson is back with a new and improved vengeance. Formerly a split stance swinger at the plate that allowed him the tendency to fly open to his far side on pitches away and attributed to his K total of 109 last year, Anderson is now swinging from a completely straight away stance. Most noticeably though is that pre-pitch, Anderson stands straight up and down, staring pitchers down from his intimidating 6’3″, 185 pound frame. He picks up pitches out of the pitcher’s hand well and after release, follows the ball not only with his eyes but also his legs, adjusting his stance all the way through the pitch for movement. He keeps his head down until the ball is in the glove and does not commit to a swing until the pitch is over the plate. He adjusts for, consistently gets wood on the ball, and even more consistently barrels the ball up with a straight through swing that has some loft and can reach fences but can also hit gaps with line drives. Anderson possesses prevalent bat speed on top of wide snappy hips which allow him to get the most out of his present strength. The approach will afford him some strikeouts in the way that he waits pitches out and can rarely hold up on swings once he commits but will also afford him as many if not more walks due to his ability to wait out break, even break of the late variety. If pitchers are going to strike Anderson out, they are going to have the stuff that earns it. While the retooled approach has worked wonders for Anderson against same-side pitching, it has yet to rear it’s head against lefties. However, he has had just 39 ABs vs them this year and has fared well against them in his career so that should regulate as the year goes along.
Defensively, Anderson came up as a second baseman before making the move to third base in 2014 and becoming a full-time corner man in 2015. Though he has plenty of arm strength needed to make it across the diamond, quick footwork, a solid glove and good gap coverage especially for a guy his size, his arm accuracy has been an ongoing problem as he has committed 28 errors in 1612 innings, most of them being of the throwing variety. At 23, unless he can turn things around in a hurry which is always possible with the likes of Perry Hill in the organization to tutor him as he makes his way through the latter stages of the minors, Anderson’s future in the field looks to be at first base.
Long story short: Overall, Anderson is a sizeable power bat who recently retooled his approach for the better after his first full year in the minors. He barrels balls up on the regular with a quick swing with some loft, allowing him to both reach the fences and hit gaps but is also becoming a pesky out to get because of his ability to wait out the break on pitches. Once a pure power threat, he is grasping the ability to hit for average while also holding down a solid K/BB, making him a solid all-around threat. Defensively, Anderson is currently a 3B but his future will likely be as a 1B.