Yesterday, in revisiting May’s Almost Mock Draft, we took a look at the pitcher that many expected to go first overall, A.J. Puk. Puk of course slipped to No. 6 .
The debate about the top high school arm in the draft seemed to come down to Jason Groome or Riley Pint, and all eyes were on which one would go first.
The Atlanta Braves thought otherwise.
Almost Mock Draft: No. 10 — Chicago White Sox | Actual MLB Draft: No. 3 Atlanta Braves
If there was one thing that was certain, it was that the Atlanta Braves were taking a pitcher at No. 3 in this year’s MLB Draft. That’s what the Braves do, isn’t it? They trade for young arms during the season and then they target high school’s finest in the MLB Draft. While many suspected Groome would be Atlanta-bound after the Phillies snagged Mickey Moniak, they instead chose the 6-foot-3, 175 pound right-hander out of upstate New York.
It made sense. The Braves had a Lottery A-round pick as well as an early pick in the second round. Passing on Groome or Puk, who would command the top projected slot bonus for their selection, the Braves went with Anderson — who was MLB’s 13th-ranked prospect and a projected top ten draft pick as it was — and locked him up below cost. Anderson signed for $4 million, which was well below the estimated $6,510,800 slot value. In turn, they bulked up their young arsenal by taking Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller, two more high school pitchers that many viewed as late-first-round talent.
Anderson was part of the pitching staff of the Team USA U18 squad that won gold last summer. He worked primarily out of the bullpen, racking up a save along the way. Despite an oblique injury that sidelined him for much of his senior season, Anderson would have Vanderbilt come calling.
The Braves offered enough to keep the young righty away from the Commodores and he has looked sharp for them since. That doesn’t mean he has been perfect, but the 18-year-old has shown early signs of exciting stuff and the mental makeup to improve as he climbs the minor league rungs.
Anderson headed to the Gulf Coast League and made his professional debut on July 13 after signing the aforementioned deal on June 25. It went very well, to say the least. Anderson started the game and went three innings. He struck out two while walking none, allowing just three hits and stranding all of his runners, not allowing a single run. He induced more ground balls (four) than fly balls (two) and looked like the real deal right off the bat.
Anderson made four more successful starts in the GCL, going as deep as five innings in a start. His last two starts went so well — hurling a combined seven shutout innings while striking out 10 and walking none — that the Braves promoted the teenager to the Appy League on August 10.
His first start for Danville saw him allow the first earned run of his young professional career, but he still did well against advanced competition. He went 3.2 innings, striking out and walking two apiece. As Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser— who was on hand for his Rookie League debut — reported, his pitches looked good, but his command and velocity wavered as he advanced through his 65-pitch limit. His fastball, normally in the mid-90s hitting as high as 96, fell to the low-90s as his outing progressed and his curveball — which was a question mark heading into the draft as to whether he can separate it from the slurvy, slider-esque tendencies it had in high school — lost its command, landing in the dirt several times.
For more on Anderson’s start to his career, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below: