After last week gave us Tarik Skubal, Dane Dunning, Casey Mize, Sixto Sanchez and Triston McKenzie (read their GIF Breakdowns here), we have yet another highly-touted prospect throwing his first pitch as a major leaguer: Ian Anderson.
We’ve been antsy for his debut since he was the #3 overall selection in the 2016 draft and listed as a Top 50 prospect in baseball by MLB.com. I’ve seen his mechanics a few times and his north-south arm action paired with repeatability caught my eye.
He’s armed with a standard trio: A fastball in the low-to-mid 90s, a hard curveball, and a well-commanded changeup. It speaks to a pitcher that could follow the BSB and I’m all about that.
And while reports from Atlanta’s alternate training site have been extremely positive on the young right-hander, he has to face the Yankees his first time out, after having his initial debut date pushed from Tuesday evening to Wednesday afternoon, which doesn’t exactly make this a recipe for instant success – at least not like we saw from McKenzie or Sanchez. I hope I’m wrong, but this is not an easy task to get thrown into for career start No. 1.
Regardless, I’ll be focused on how he attacks hitters with his fastball, how that changeup looks against left-handed hitters, and of course if he can maintain his velocity and command throughout the duration of his start.
Without further ado, here is a look at Ian Anderson’s MLB debut, using 32 GIFs.
Anderson did what basically every rookie pitcher has done this season, going fastball down in the strike zone to kick off his big league career.
He followed that up with a nice fastball high and tight to Mike Tauchman, a sign the Blake Snell Blueprint may be in the cards today, as we hoped.
After missing high with his third straight heater, we got a glimpse of Anderson’s changeup on pitch No. 4, which induced a fly out to center field.
Didn’t love the look of this pitch in particular, but it was effective after three straight heaters and located well. Now he gets Luke Voit, and we get our first look at his top-notch curveball.
Ooof. I can see the appeal, but that’s not the location you want. He’s lucky Voit just missed on that one, or this could have been a rather ugly start.
Thankfully, Anderson responded with a second-straight curveball, and we like this location much much better, even if it was a ball.
After a meh changeup up and in, Anderson got his second out – this one on a fastball up and away – another sign the BSB is at work here.
With Aaron Hicks stepping up to the plate, Anderson starts him off with a curveball that catches far too much of the plate that Hicks watches.
Anderson missed with his next two offerings, a 96 mile per hour fastball down and in and a changeup below the zone, before coming back with another changeup that Hicks swung through at the bottom of the zone.
Anderson decided to go back to that changeup for a third time in a row and Hicks clearly was not expecting it, leading to Anderson’s first career strikeout.
We wanted to see him effectively use that changeup against left-handers, and while I think he could locate it a bit better it’s encouraging to see him go to that pitch to get his first strikeout out of the way.
I’d love to see more of that in the second inning, along with the curveball spotted down in the zone.
Anderson started the second inning much like the first, with a fastball over the middle of the plate but down in the zone. I’d rather see him elevate this pitch, but as a first pitch strike, it’s not a bad way to get ahead – as he can go a lot of different ways now.
After missing with two more fastballs, one off the plate away and another below the zone, Anderson brings back his curveball and catches way too much of the zone.
He’s fortunate to get away with this one, and we are going to need to see this pitch down below the zone more often for him to succeed going forward.
Anderson then went with two straight off-speed pitches to Gio Urshela: a curveball off the plate away and a changeup down and in (his first changeup to a right-hander) before going middle-middle with a 2-0 fastball that was fouled off and another 94 mile per hour fastball in the middle of the zone that resulted in a fly out.
I’m getting some traces of Triston McKenzie’s start, where he missed middle a lot with his fastball but managed to get away with it. McKenzie was facing a hapless Tigers squad, however, while Anderson is doing this against the Bronx Bombers. I’m curious if this will last.
Anderson went fastball away for strike one to Gary Sanchez, before coming back with a pair of changeups low and inside, the first that missed and the second that was fouled away.
The changeup low and in to right-handers is an unexpected development, and makes me wonder if he’s not confident in his curveball as a weapon against right-handers.
Either way it worked, as he came back to get Sanchez swinging at a 95 mile per hour heater away.
Another three-up and three-down inning for Anderson, but his command could certainly be better – and will probably need to be for him to come out of this outing unscathed.
Anderson was lucky Brett Gardner was taking first pitch, as he went middle-middle with his slowest fastball of the day at 93 miles per hour.
Anderson missed with two straight fastballs, each at 93, which has me a little concerned he’s starting to wear down this early into the contest.
After missing with a changeup away, Anderson, now facing his first three-ball count of the game, followed up with another changeup which got a huge whiff from Gardner, who was clearly looking fastball in a 3-1 count.
Anderson showed off his confidence by going back to the changeup again, his third in a row, and got another swing and a miss from Gardner for strike three.
Gotta love a kid with the confidence to execute two changeups on a three-ball count, and I’m starting to feel less nervous for the young man after this sequence.
Anderson further quelled my nerves by dropping this beautiful curveball on Thairo Estrada to begin the at-bat.
Anderson followed that up with a changeup low and in, another one of those to a right-handed hitter, and then came back with a 94 mile per hour fastball right down the plate that resulted in a groundout.
Glad to see the velocity is back, but the Blake Snell blueprint has been abandoned – and this pitch will get hit hard if he’s not spotting it up at the top of the strike zone.
Tyler Wade looked at a pair of 94 mile per hour fastballs that both should have been called strikes at the bottom of the zone to begin his at-bat. After fouling off another fastball (in the same spot), Anderson missed away with a changeup and down with a fastball for his first baserunner of the game, a five pitch walk that featured at least three strikes thrown. Such is life.
Back at the top of the order, Anderson apparently didn’t want Tauchman to time his fastball as he went with four straight changeups, giving him a 2-2 count and a runner on second base after Wade realized he could swipe a base, thanks to Anderson’s barrage of off-speed pitches.
Anderson then went with a fastball, which came in right over the plate at 93 and was blasted back up the middle – right into the shift to get out of the inning.
He has yet to give up a hit, but we started to see things unravel a bit this inning. I love his confidence in going to his changeup in fastball counts, and it has translated into some chases from Yankee hitters, but his lack of trust in the breaking ball has me worried. So far so good though, heading into inning number four.
Anderson heads into the fourth inning with a four-run lead thanks to a trio of home runs off Gerrit Cole (baseball is weird) so I’m really hoping to see him attack the heart of New York’s lineup his second time through.
He started off doing just that, going fastball middle and down to Luke Voit for strike one.
He followed that up with another fastball, but Voit hit a hard grounder to Austin Riley at third base that he threw in the dirt, leading to an error and just the second base-runner of the game for Anderson.
Anderson responded by getting a quick 0-2 count on Aaron Hicks, although the first-pitch changeup caught quite a bit of the plate, a worrisome trend we’ve seen that has yet to impact him in this one.
Anderson got himself a groundout on the next pitch, another changeup – but this one located perfectly on the outside black:
Anderson followed that up by attacking Mike Ford with a fastball up in the zone, the first time he’s attacked high with the heater in quite a while.
After missing with a fastball away, Anderson came back with a changeup low and in for a whiff.
Anderson has been bringing that changeup in to left-handers, and while that’s not my favorite location (lefties tend to crush inside pitching) it does seem to be keeping New York’s hitters off-balance so far.
Unfortunately, Ford patiently waited Anderson out on a 1-2 count, getting a fastball up and away, a spiked curveball and a changeup just off the plate for ball four.
He responded well, as has been the case all afternoon, painting a fastball low and away to Gio Urshela to begin the next at-bat.
After spotting another fastball down, Anderson opted to go with a third straight heater – this one high and tight – and got a much-needed inning ending double-play.
I have to say, while Anderson has yet to really wow me with his stuff or his command, he clearly has excellent poise on the bump – and is very good at keeping hitters off-balance and getting outs when he needs them.
We will see if that continues into inning No. 5.
Anderson started the fifth with a curveball up over the zone, followed by a changeup right down the heart of the plate that Sanchez didn’t do anything with – an indictment on him as a hitter more than anything else.
Anderson followed up with another curveball, also right down the middle, that Sanchez smacked toward the six-hole. It would have been the first hit of the game had Riley not made an excellent play at third, keeping the no-hit bid alive.
Anderson dropped a nice curveball in on the hands of Gardner for a called strike one, showing off why that pitch has been so highly-touted in his minor league career. It was also the 12th batter (out of 16) that Anderson started off with a strike, showing off the control that helped make him such a highly-touted prospect.
Anderson came back with a pair of changeups, one that missed away and another that was fouled off, before he came back with 94 in the zone for a called strike three.
This was a great, great sequence, as the fastball and changeup play so well off each other, and he’s certainly not going to be friends with Gardner anytime soon as he’s managed to keep the savvy veteran off-balance all day long.
Anderson came back with 94 on the black to Estrada, and at this point he is just absolutely cruising.
….and of course as soon as I say that, Anderson drills Estrada on the elbow pad. Oops.
But his poise came through again, as he came back with another great first pitch curveball – something we haven’t seen much from him before this inning. Another example of him mixing his three-pitch arsenal effectively.
Anderson followed up with a changeup for a called strike, a fastball well above the zone, and another fastball off the plate.
In a 2-2 count, he went back to the changeup – his bread and butter today – and got a foul tip for strike three, ending the inning and keeping the no-no intact.
This was far and away my favorite inning from Anderson, and for him to be doing this against a solid Yankees lineup, with just three pitches, is a really strong testament to his advanced pitch sequencing ability – especially in a big league debut.
After getting ahead of Tauchman, Anderson missed with two changeups below the zone to bring the count to 2-1, before dropping a nice fastball on the outside corner for a swing and miss.
Anderson went back to the fastball up in the zone that was fouled back, before coming back with a changeup that was whacked on a line right at Dansby Swanson for an out.
I liked this approach, but his stuff is starting to flatten a bit and he was lucky this wasn’t a leadoff single.
He’s extra lucky after the following pitch, a not-too-bad 94 mile per hour fastball down in the zone that Voit got good wood on, resulting in the first hit and run of the game:
I’m excited to see how Anderson responds, especially with that home run coming on a relatively nice pitch. He wasted no time impressing me with a curveball low and away that Hicks fouled back:
However, things started to unravel fairly quickly after that, as Anderson put the next three pitches, two changeups and a fastball, in the dirt before missing middle with another changeup that was fortunately popped up for an out.
As he’s done all game, Anderson got himself ahead in the count on the following hitter, this time with a nice 94 mile per hour heater on the outside black to Ford:
Three of the next four pitches were in the dirt though, including a curveball that barely made it out of the grass. He’s clearly starting to lose his command here, and at 90 pitches it’s almost a foregone conclusion this is not only his last inning, but his last hitter if he does not get the final out here.
However, Anderson’s advanced poise and grit got him out of this one, as he got another chase on a changeup below the zone for strike three, ending the inning and his incredible first outing in a big league uniform.
It’s really hard to not look at this outing, against a first place New York team, and get really really excited. And there’s a lot to be excited about. Anderson mixes his three-pitch arsenal extremely well, constantly keeping Yankee hitters off-balance with his fastball, curveball, and changeup – all which he threw for strikes with consistency.
I’m not sold on him being an instant ace, however, as we saw a lot of pitches float right over the zone and a concerning lack of faith in his curveball, the pitch most often lauded as his top offering.
I’d like to see more of his fastball up in the zone, something he did early in the game but then abandoned during the middle innings, and I want to see him trust his curveball more before I can trust him in 10-team leagues.
Still, his feel for the game, pitch sequencing skills, and overall control should make him a candidate to get wins and quality starts, while limiting damage to your ERA and WHIP. I don’t know that he will be a huge strikeout pitcher – even after posting a stellar 32% CSW in this one I think his stuff is hittable – but improvements to his off-speed command and a commitment to elevating his fastball could easily change that.
Overall, Anderson will be an extremely popular add in 12-teamers tonight, and I’ll happily be among those picking him up where he’s still on the wire.
Photo courtesy of Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)