Great Hurlers of the Future – Part II

In a continuation of my series on pitchers of the future, I want to look at the A’s Brett Anderson and Twin’s Kevin Slowey.

In his first season with the Athletics’ big-league club in 2009, And­erson ­completed the rarely-seen successful jump from AA straight to the show, without ever throwing a pitch in AAA. I mean, what else is the rebuilding A’s franchise supposed to do with a guy who averaged 9.7 K/9 versus a minuscule 1.9 BB/9 in the minors?

A logical comparison to the Athletics’ stud lefty would be the 2007 NL Cy Young winner, Jake Peavy. Peavy also jumped to the majors directly from AA, where he posted 10 K/9 versus 3.4 walks in his final minor league season—but still not quite the ridiculous splits Anderson put up. When we compare their rookie seasons Anderson shines even more, sporting a better K/BB ratio and higher ground ball rate. In fact, Anderson’s rookie GB/FB ratio is better than Peavy’s has ever been during his 8-year career.  If he can keep this up, Brett Anderson’s next comparison years down the road could very well be Greg Maddux, much of whose success was derived precisely from Anderson’s apparent strengths: excellent GB/FB ratio and low walk rates.

Maddux’s break out year came at 22, when he put up a 3.18 ERA, a 5.1 – 2.9 K/BB ratio, and a 1.26 GB/FB ratio (league average GB/FB ratio is about 0.80). Having just turned 22, Anderson numbers look equally as impressive. Despite a deceptively high 4.06 ERA last season, Anderson’s 7.7 – 2.3 K/BB ratio and 1.06 GB/FB ratio suggest that he could potentially put up similar numbers to Maddux someday soon.

Maddux first pitched in the NL in the 1980s, before the power surge that came a decade later. Therefore expecting Anderson to ever put up the same ERA numbers would be a more-than-unfair expectation, since he pitches in the steroid era and has to face DHs every nine batters. A reasonable projection for Anderson’s ERA this season would be right around 3.50, and he will be an integral part of any success the Athletics enjoy this season and in the future. Oakland has every reason to be excited about their 22-year-old southpaw.

Kevin Slowey’s “stuff” doesn’t leave the best first impression. His fastball reflects his name well—sitting in the upper 80s—and he counters it with the basic slider, curve and changeup combination. The best way to describe Slowey would be “control freak.” In 317 major league innings, spread out over three seasons, Slowey has allowed just 50 walks. For comparison, in about 200 innings the 2009 AL Cy Young winner, Zach Greinke, allowed 51 walks, while Arizona’s Doug Davis allowed a league-worst 103. Slowey’s career 1.42 BB/9 innings is lower than two of Maddux’s four Cy Young years, and better than Maddux’s 1.7 BB/9 average over his best 16 seasons from 1988 until 2003.

What the 25-year-old Slowey lacks is a decent ground ball rate. So long as he keeps the ball up in the zone, he will always fall victim to high home run rates, and low double play success rates, hurting his potential to ever post ERAs below 3.50. I expect this season, with a weak Minnesota defense, that Slowey’s ERA will sit between 3.80 and 4.20.

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