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Oakland A’s 2019 Community Prospect List #24: Tanner Anderson looks for MLB opportunity

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He’s part of the 2019 rotation depth chart, and the 40-man roster.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Our 2019 Community Prospect List adds a player from the 40-man roster. Here’s the current list, including their winning margins (the difference between his % of the vote, and the % of the runner-up):

  1. Jesus Luzardo, LHP (+78%)
  2. A.J. Puk, LHP (+7%)
  3. Sean Murphy, C (+80%)
  4. Lazaro Armenteros, OF (+1%)
  5. Austin Beck, OF (+59%)
  6. Jorge Mateo, SS (+6%)
  7. Jameson Hannah, OF (+4%)
  8. James Kaprielian, RHP (+13%)
  9. Sheldon Neuse, 3B (+12%)
  10. Parker Dunshee, RHP (+21%)
  11. Grant Holmes, RHP (+7%)
  12. Jeremy Eierman, SS (+31%)
  13. Luis Barrera, OF (+15%)
  14. Brian Howard, RHP (+1%)
  15. Greg Deichmann, OF (+17%)
  16. Skye Bolt, OF (+11%)
  17. Daulton Jefferies, RHP (+12%)
  18. Tyler Ramirez, OF (+17%)
  19. Nick Allen, SS (+50%)
  20. Wyatt Marks, RHP (+1%)
  21. Marcos Brito, 2B (+4%)
  22. Gus Varland, RHP (+7%)
  23. Kevin Merrell, SS (+18%)
  24. Tanner Anderson, RHP (+7%)

The Oakland A’s 2019 rotation picture is packed with quantity but short on certainty, and offseason acquisition Tanner Anderson represents that dynamic as well as anybody. The right-hander spent last year as a reliever in the Pirates system and even made his MLB debut in July, but the A’s are trying him out as a starter this spring. That makes him one more question mark in a group full of them, but at least there is plenty of reason for optimism.

For an idea of what Anderson brings to the table, here’s a scouting report from GM David Forst, via Susan Slusser of S.F. Chronicle:

The thing that jumps out at first is his sinker; it’s a weapon on its own. We couldn’t figure out why Pittsburgh took him out of the rotation, though — he has three good pitches and had had good success. They expected he would have a quicker route to the big leagues in relief, and he did, but with the sinker, a slider that works against right-handed hitters and left-handers, and a changeup, we think he could work in a starter role or in long relief. ... And the maturity level is great. He can change arm angles and he looks totally under control.

And a couple more details from Kyle Glaser of Baseball America:

Anderson sits 93 mph on his sinker in relief, and his mid-80s slider is his swing-and-miss pitch. He has a heavy ground ball tendency, with nearly three groundouts for every flyout in his career.

That groundball rate is one of Anderson’s most promising traits. The A’s have the best defensive infield in the sport, including a Gold Glover on each corner, so a pitcher who keeps the ball on the dirt might find himself picking up a few extra outs on this team. His grounder rate has lived well above 60% throughout the minors, sometimes surpassing 70% in the lower levels, and even the 56.4% he posted in his small-sample MLB debut ranked 33rd out of 618 hurlers who threw at least 10 innings.

Anderson won’t be a factor in the majors to start the season, but he’s on the 40-man roster already so he shouldn’t be too far from consideration depending how the summer goes for everyone. That proximity, coupled with at least a little bit of upside, give him enough promise to crack the bottom of this CPL. And if he does make it, then the Harvard grad (who plays the violin!) (and has a silly leg kick!) would be one more interesting character in a clubhouse that’s always full of them.

Epilogue: For what it’s worth, Anderson is having a nice Cactus League. He started today (Sat.) and allowed just an unearned run in three innings; he faced 10 batters, and of the eight that made contact, six put it on the ground. Don’t read anything into spring numbers, but he’s got the following line: 9 ip, 1 ER, 11 Ks, 0 BB, 8 hits.

Here is the process:

  • Five candidates will be listed on the ballot. The voting will take place in the comments section. I will start with a comment listing all five players, and then I will respond to that with five new comments in the style of “Vote: Player Name” for each candidate. Please do not reply directly to the official “Vote” comments, so that the ballot can stay together in one group.
  • Choose your ONE favorite by Rec’ing the comment with his name. Please only vote for one. The player who receives the most Rec’s earns the next spot on the CPL, while the remaining four players move on to the next ballot where they are joined by a new nominee.
  • In the comments, below the official voting, the community will nominate players to be put onto the ballot for the next round. Similar to the ballot, I will start with a comment calling for nominations, which can then be made as a response to my comment. The format for your comment should be “Nomination: Player Name”.
  • After the first nomination for a player has been put in, all other votes for that player will come from Rec’ing his comment. The player with the most Rec’s earns the nomination.
  • If a prospect is traded (or leaves for the NFL), his name will be crossed out, and all other players will be moved up a space. If a prospect is acquired, a special vote will be put up to determine where that player should rank.

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The new nominee is Dalton Sawyer. He made last season’s CPL, but then he missed all of 2018 to Tommy John Surgery. Before his operation, the big lefty profiled as a future reliever but had at least found success as a starter up through High-A. Like so many pitchers on this list, it remains to be seen what he’ll look like in his return from long-term injury.

Hitter rates (poor/avg/great): wRC+ (75/100/135), BB% (5.0%/8.5%/12.0%), K% (30%/22%/14%)

Dalton Sawyer, LHP

Expected level: A+ | Age 25

2018 stats: Missed entire season due to Tommy John surgery

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report (from mid-2018):

Scouting grades: Fastball: 45 | Curveball: 45 | Changeup: 55 | Control 45 | Overall: 45

After working out of the bullpen exclusively during his pro debut, Sawyer made the transition to starting in 2017 and passed all tests. A 6-foot-5 southpaw whose delivery is loaded with deception, Sawyer pitches with fringe-average velocity, usually sitting around 90 mph. A changeup and a curveball comprise his secondary arsenal, with the former grading as an above-average pitch and the latter needing further refinement. He throws a lot of strikes but needs to improve his command, especially when it comes to his fastball.

Sawyer’s effectiveness against same-sided hitters is his greatest strength, and he held them to a paltry .100/.202/.127 slash line in 125 plate appearances in his first full season. That said, he’ll need to figure out a way to retire right-handed hitters to remain a starter after they slugged .446 with 17 home runs against him. Sawyer’s future might not be as a starter, but there’s enough there for him to carve out a bullpen role at the highest level.

* * *

Jonah Heim, C

Expected level: AA | Age 24

2018, A+: 348 PAs, 113 wRC+, 7 HR, 8.3% BB, 17.2% Ks
2018, AA: 154 PAs, 29 wRC+, 1 HR, 6.5% BB, 14.3% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 35 | Arm: 55 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

A long-limbed, switch-hitting backstop, Heim stands out more for his work behind the plate than at it. He receives well and has a strong arm that’s allowed him to throw out just over 34 percent of potential basestealers heading into 2019. Heim started to swing the bat with a bit more authority over the past two seasons and hit well in the California League before stumbling post-promotion. He has more of a line drive approach now, but he shows some raw power in batting practice and still has room to add strength. While it’s more leverage than bat speed, you can dream on some future pop.

The A’s would love to see Heim play with a little more urgency. A slow heartbeat for a catcher isn’t a bad thing, but some added energy could help him reach the big leagues as a backup backstop.

* * *

Dairon Blanco, OF

Expected level: AA | Age 26

2018, A+: 346 PAs, 102 wRC+, 1 HR, 22 SB, 7.2% BB, 19.1% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 35 | Run: 80 | Arm: 45 | Field: 55 | Overall: 40

When Blanco made his A’s debut in the California League in 2018, it had been nearly two years since he had played competitively in Cuba. At the outset, it was all about his speed, an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale, and defense. But he quickly shook the rust off and showed more offensive acumen than anticipated. There wasn’t as much swing and miss as some expected to see and he often showed a solid approach at the plate, with some signs of potential extra-base ability. His physicality and speed could add up to an average hitter.

There’s no doubt Blanco’s speed is his calling card. It allows him to be aggressive on the basepaths (22 steals in 82 games in his debut) and really go get the ball in the outfield. After his first season was cut short by a hamate injury, it will be interesting to see how quickly he can climb the ladder.

* * *

Hogan Harris, LHP

Expected level: A/A+ | Age 22

2018 stats: Missed pro season to injury, but did pitch in college season

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Fastball: 60 | Curveball: 55 | Slider: 50 | Changeup: 50 | Control: 45 | Overall: 45

Harris created a stir by hitting 98 mph in mid-March after missing a month with an oblique injury, though he usually pitches at 91-94 with some run and angle on his fastball. He has aptitude for spin, throwing a curveball with power and depth and morphing it into a slider at times. He also has an effective changeup to combat right-handers.

While he possesses four pitches, Harris also has a lot of work to do to remain a starter at the next level. He lacks reliable command, and he loses velocity and location on his fastball at times when he falls in love with his breaking pitches. He also has a history of nagging injuries, leading to questions about his durability.

* * *

Jordan Diaz, 3B

Expected level: A- | Age 18

2018, RK: 186 PAs, 121 wRC+, 1 HR, 10.2% BB, 11.8% Ks

MLB Pipeline grades and scouting report:

Scouting grades: Hit: 45 | Power: 40 | Run: 45 | Arm: 50 | Field: 50 | Overall: 40

The key to Diaz’s progress offensively was an increased understanding of his approach, and the right-handed hitter stayed with it all summer. He had some good exit velocity numbers with a line-drive approach and showed much better discipline, with a solid walk rate to show for it. Diaz didn’t try to lift the ball too much, but with a strong, stocky build, there is some power to grow into. He also improved defensively at third, working hard at it and putting aside some lazy tendencies he displayed in his first summer, and he looked like one of the better defenders at the hot corner in the AZL.

The A’s are excited to see how Diaz’s newfound maturity in terms of his approach, work ethic and consistency will allow him to progress moving forward. It’s too early to tell exactly what he’s going to be, but watching how he builds off of his encouraging 2019 should be interesting.

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Vote in the comments below for your favorite of the five by Rec’ing his “Vote: (Player Name)” comment, and post your nomination(s) as well!