Atlanta’s Ian Anderson is just the next young arm to develop in the Braves’ system. In six starts in the regular season, Anderson went 3-2 with a 1.95 earned run average (ERA), 1.08 WHIP and a 2.93 K/BB ratio. In the regular season, he posted an excellent 29.7 percent strikeout rate, which is right on par with his marks from Double-A in 2018 (30.0%) and 2019 (31.8%). The strikeouts had a slight downturn in 24.2 innings at Triple-A, but his walks were up as well, so we’ll attribute that to being uncharacteristic. We’ll come back to the walks in a bit.
Atlanta made the postseason and Anderson doubled down on his performance from the regular season. He made four starts for the Braves in the postseason, and despite inducing fewer ground balls, he posted a 0.96 ERA (2.23 FIP, 4.09 xFIP) and 1.13 WHIP. His strikeout rate in the postseason was 31.2 percent, but his walk rate jumped even more. In the regular season it was 10.1 percent, and that looks good compared to his 13.0 percent mark in the postseason.
He walked just three batters in his first 12 innings of work, but then went on to walk 11 batters in his next 14.2 innings. Harnessing his control and avoiding self-inflicted damage, a la walks, will be key to sustaining his 2020 breakout.
There’s a lot of good from Anderson’s 2020 season, and we’ll get there, but let’s just start with the shortcomings. His walk rate came in at the 33rd percentile and his curveball and change up were out of the zone more often than not.
However, he did generate a good amount of swings out of the zone on these pitches, which helped his strikeout remain elevated. However, as the year went on, the whiffs out of the zone decreased.
Anderson flashed a sinker in September, and it will be interesting to see if he uses and trusts the pitch more in 2021. Again, limited usage, so take this sample size with a grain of salt, but it did result in a launch angle of -18 degrees. He hardly used it in the postseason, either, but this is something to watch heading into the 2021 regular season.
When he didn’t walk someone, or strike them out, the opposition struggled to make worthwhile contact. His exit velocity, hard hit rate and barrel rate came in at the 79th, 80th and 99th percentile respectively. He posted a barrel rate of just 1.2 percent. Phenomenal.
In the regular season, Anderson posted a ground ball rate of 52.5 percent, but in the postseason, that mark jumped to 34.9 percent. Using his sinker could help maintain a higher ground ball rate, but otherwise, a ground ball rate closer to his regular season mark will be better for Anderson in 2021. This will be something to monitor. Through his first 9.2 spring innings, of the 29 outs he has recorded, 18 are via strikeout, 5 via groundout and just two flyouts.
In terms of expected statistics, and select batted ball metrics, Anderson was in rare company. If we set the parameters of reaching at least the 80th percentile in the following categories, Anderson was one of just four pitchers from the 2020 season to do so.
- xwOBA, xBA, xSLG, xISO, xOBP, Barrels, Barrel Rate and Hard Hit Rate
Projections for Anderson are banking in some considerable regression for the 22-year-old. Let’s take a look at what some of the popular projection systems have Anderson’s ERA sitting at for the 2021 season:
- THE BAT: 3.87
- ATC: 3.69
- Steamer: 4.21
- ZiPS: 4.26
Even if there’s a step back in his strikeout rate, he induces enough ground balls to avoid major issues with round trippers, and his walk rate should improve. Anderson should enjoy a successful 2021 season, with an ERA settling somewhere between where ATC and THE BAT reside.
Per NFBC data, Anderson is the 35th pitcher (30th starter) off the board, and even some slight regression should allow fantasy baseball managers to profit off his 2021 season. Atlanta should give him plenty of run support and he should have no problem, health willing, in accruing double-digit wins.
He’s an early favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year award, and his current draft price is in a sweet spot of available pitchers, meaning that you could get him at a nice value if other managers in your league value the upside (Dinelson Lamet , Jesús Luzardo ) or the floor (Zack Wheeler , Zack Greinke ). It’s very possible that Anderson slips a couple spots in your fantasy baseball draft, and that’s your cue to pounce.
THE BAT Projections Courtesy of Derek Carty
ATC Projections Courtesy of Ariel Cohen
Steamer Projections Courtesy of steamerprojections.com
ZiPS Projections Courtesy of Dan Szymborski