Sep 21, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox catcher Bryan Anderson (39) is congratulated by teammates after scoring in the ninth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
The 27-year-old catcher was purchased from the Reds on August 24 to provide organizational catching depth. Anderson has been labeled as a typical “AAAA” player—better than most AAA players but worse than most major league players. He sports a solid minor-league career line of .281/.351/.417, but has struggled in his limited time in the big leagues, hitting .210 over 35 career games.
Sound familiar? It should, because the A’s acquired Stephen Vogt in April 2013 in a very similar manner. Before he got to Oakland, Vogt was 0-25 in his big-league career, but hit .304 over six minor-league seasons. He was also acquired for organizational depth, and any production at all at the major-league level was considered a bonus.
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Now, less than two years later, he’s been one of the A’s best hitters, batting .283/.323/.447 in 374 at bats over parts of the last two years. Maybe Billy Beane had a little bit more than just depth on his mind when he acquired Vogt, and the same may apply here with Anderson.
Anderson was once considered a solid prospect, making both the Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America top 100 rankings before the 2008 season. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2005 draft, surrounded by productive major leaguers Jerremy Hellickson and Brian Matusz. The fact that he has potential to be great is nothing but an encouraging sign for the A’s.
In 2007, Anderson started the All-Star Futures game in San Francisco, and also played in the Futures game in 2008 in Yankee Stadium.
Another similarity between the two catchers is that they are both left-handed, making them ideal for platooning situations. Vogt is hitting .314 with 8 home runs in 207 at bats against righties this year, and Anderson was hitting .335 with 8 home runs in 200 minor-league at bats against righties before being called up. Especially when paired with right-handed catchers Derek Norris and Geovany Soto, these lefty catchers are excellent in a platoon role.
The problem for Anderson right now seems to be playing time. For Vogt, the thing that triggered his success was consistent playing time last year when John Jaso was injured. Anderson is one of five catchers currently on the A’s (six if you count Josh Donaldson) so playing time will be hard to come by for now.
But Soto is a free agent after this year and Vogt has mostly been playing first base, possibly giving Anderson a chance to prove his value in spring training next year. If he can stick on the roster and get a chance to play every day, things may finally click for him at the big-league level.
Beane doesn’t acquire people just for the sake of it. These kinds of moves are the ones he loves—finding the superstar in the trash heap that everyone else gave up on. A lot of the times those moves don’t work out, and that’s fine. There’s basically no risk attached.
But don’t be too surprised if there’s an “I believe in Bryan Anderson” chant in Oakland sometime next year.