When the Indians traded Beau Mills, I theorized that it was the progress of Chun-Hsiu Chen at Double-A and Jesus Aguilar at High-A that made the team feel secure about its future at first base. I figured back then that dealing Mills was the first move towards promoting the Indians’ two top first base prospects, and a sign of confidence that one or both of them would contribute to the team down the road.
Well, so much for that logic. Mills’ old spot has now been filled by Lars Anderson, who the Indians acquired at the trade deadline from the Boston Red Sox Tuesday in exchange for Double-A pitcher Steven Wright. It was a simple strength-for-strength deal as Boston has Adrian Gonzalez at first base in the Majors and the Indians have a myriad of back-end rotation options.
So who is the newest Indian? An 18th-round pick out of high school in 2006, Anderson, now 24, has seen his stock rise and fall significantly in his career. He quickly made a name for himself after raking in the lower minors. He rose all the way to No. 17 on Baseball America’s top prospect list in 2009 after a spectacular 2008 campaign that saw him slash .317/.417/.517 with 18 home runs between High-A and Double-A as a 20-year-old.
But 2009 was not as friendly to the fast-rising prospect, as he only hit .233/.328/.345 at Double-A. Since then, Anderson’s performance has pleataued: 2010 and 2011 were solid, albeit unspectacular campaigns for Anderson, slashing .274/.349/.461 and .265/.369/.422 mostly at Triple-A. This year has been much of the same, as he currently holds a .259/.359/.415 triple-slash. He has some MLB experience, but he in parts of three seasons he has only 56 plate appearances, making it pretty much impossible to draw any real conclusions from his time in Boston.
So what did the Indians really get? They got a former top prospect who hasn’t completely fallen off the table. Anderson won’t ever be a middle-of-the-order presence as evidence by the steep decline in his slugging over the years, but he still draws walks at a strong rate which leads to a nice OBP. Anderson has also struck out 100 times every year of his professional career, and with 89 whiffs in his first 93 games he’s likely to eclipse that mark again in 2012.
Essentially, Anderson is another serviceable first baseman/left field/DH type who the Indians plan to stash in Triple-A. Depth can never hurt, but it’s hard to see how he’ll stand out ahead of guys like Russ Canzler and Matt LaPorta.
Expect to see Anderson called up in September, if only for the Indians to see what they have. Boston seemed to completely gave up on Anderson being an MLB option a couple years ago, but they may have undervalued him. He could still carve himself a solid career if all goes right—at this point, not much else can go wrong.