Several of Atlanta's top pitching prospects have started ascending to the Majors, Ian Anderson made sure to remind everyone there's much more to come.
Atlanta's No. 5 prospect allowed two hits and struck out seven over a career-high seven scoreless innings, but Class A Advanced Florida fell to Tampa, 2-1, on Sunday afternoon at Osceola County Stadium.
"I was getting some contact early and was mixing all three pitches well," said Anderson, who tossed 59 of 82 pitches for strikes. "I was getting ahead most of the time and really commanding my fastball. There were some great plays made me behind me and that also helped me get deeper in the game. We didn't get the result we wanted, but that happens sometimes."
Gameday box score
The right-hander allowed a single to second-ranked Yankees prospect Estevan Florial in the first inning and issued his only walk of the game to Hoy Jun Park in the third. From there, he faced the minimum over his remaining four frames. Brandon Wagner singled to lead off the fourth, but he was erased on a double play off the bat of Alexander Palma. After that, Anderson retired the final 11 batters he faced while collecting five of his seven strikeouts.
Anderson was in line for his first victory of the season, but hasn't notched a win over 13 starts dating back to last June 14 with Class A Rome. MLB.com's No. 49 overall prospect has been kept on a strict pitch count and limited to less than five innings in 10 of those appearances.
"It was awesome [to pitch into the seventh]," the Rexford, New York native said. "You always want to take the ball and go deep, and to finally do it was really cool. I don't look at me not going deep as a product of a pitch count. To me, I'm not doing my job. I can get plenty deep in the game if I'm more efficient. That's much more on me if I'm not going five or six innings."
It's been an up-and-down start for Anderson through six Florida State League outings. He debuted on April 9, allowing three runs in 3 2/3 innings to Fort Myers and followed that up by surrendering one hit in five scoreless frames against Palm Beach. He yielded eight runs over his next two outings, but he's given up just five hits over his last 12 consecutive scoreless innings to lower his ERA to 3.81.
"I've just been more consistent with secondary pitches, as well as my fastball," Anderson explained. "Things have been working much more smoothly these last two outings. I've been getting ahead and have been aggressive. The hitters [in the FSL] are a lot more patient than they were [in the South Atlantic League]. As a pitcher, you're not going to get nearly as many of them to chase, which is expected as you keep moving up. You also have to limit your mistakes because they will hit them."
The third overall pick in the 2016 Draft, Anderson has been brought along carefully by the organization. He posted a 2.04 ERA in 10 starts spanning 39 2/3 innings that year with the Braves' Rookie-level clubs in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian Leagues. He spent all of last season with Rome, where he went 4-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 20 starts. The 6-foot-3, 170-pounder held South Atlantic League batters to a .232 average and struck out 101 in 83 innings to give Atlanta another promising hurler in its pipeline.
"It's pretty awesome," Anderson said. "You see a guy like [Braves No. 3 prospect Mike Soroka] go up and shove against the Mets the other day. It's cool to be a part of those group of guys. It makes you want to work harder when you see those other guys making their way up. I think, 'If I do that and stick with it, it could be me too.'"
Braves No. 23 prospect Brett Cumberland had two hits, including an RBI double, for the Fire Frogs.
Atlanta's 27th-ranked prospect Thomas Burrows (1-1) and Chad Sobotka combined to allow two runs on four hits in the ninth.
Alexander Palma and Diego Castillo collected RBI knocks in the ninth to rally the Tarpons.
Adonis Rosa (4-1) allowed one hit and a walk with four strikeouts in six scoreless innings of relief.