Ian Anderson might be the Braves’ best pitching prospect of the past five years. He’s at least in the conversation. And like many before him, he could make his debut through a late-season promotion.
Anderson, who recently was promoted to Triple-A Gwinnett, could be a factor in the Braves’ final month. The team won’t rule out Anderson debuting this season, according to general manager Alex Anthopoulos, who stresses the bottom line is how Anderson would impact the win-loss column.
“We are committed to winning,” Anthopoulos said. “I know every GM can say that, but we’re going with the hot hand. We’re taking the best 25. I didn’t think we would option Mike Foltynewicz. I didn’t think that certain guys – we added (Adam) Duvall, who’s been an All-Star and had back-to-back 30-homer seasons. Austin Riley was playing the best down there and he got the call-up. We have a responsibility to the 24, 25 guys who are here, the fan base and everyone else.”
Anderson had a tremendously productive 111 innings in Double-A. The 21-year-old posted a 2.68 ERA with a 147:47 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Opposing batters hit a collective .202 off the righty.
Baseball America, among others, grades Anderson the franchise’s No. 1 prospect. The Braves haven’t hesitated dipping into their prospect pool during their past two seasons of contention, promoting Mike Soroka, Bryse Wilson, Kolby Allard and Kyle Wright in that span.
“If we think someone gives us the best chance to win, we’ll do it,” Anthopoulos said. “And we did it last year. You saw Bryse Wilson come up and make a big start for us against the Pirates. We called Soroka up May 1 against the Mets because he was the best guy. When you’re not contending, you can look more from a developmental standpoint. You can give these guys more time. You can make other determinations.
“With where we’re at, being a competitive club trying to get to the playoffs, we’re going to go with the best guy, no matter who it is. No matter what the experience is. Whoever gives us the best chance to win.”
If that’s the case, it’s up to Anderson. He was shelled in his Triple-A debut, allowing five runs (including a grand slam) in only three innings of work. His next start is scheduled for Sunday.
While fans are eager to see Anderson, given the Braves’ glut of pitching talent, there’s sense behind resisting a promotion (even if Anderson blossoms in Triple-A). On the flip side, perhaps the Braves want a preview of Anderson before he enters a competition for a rotation spot next spring. He could also operate out of the bullpen, a method manager Brian Snitker has long endorsed for younger pitchers.
The Braves aren’t concerned about Soroka’s and Max Fried’s workload, though if they maintain a comfortable divisional lead, they could more easily distribute starts to Wright, Wilson, Touki Toussaint and maybe even Anderson.
Anderson’s teammate, Tucker Davidson, has had a break-out year and was simultaneously promoted to Gwinnett. Davidson will be Rule 5 eligible in the winter, meaning he eventually needs to be added to the 40-man to avoid the Rule 5 draft, so there’s logic in giving him MLB experience as well.
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