SAL notes: Anderson endures ups and downs

Braves' No. 6 prospect working on his consistency with Rome

The third overall pick in 2016, Ian Anderson is 4-4 with a 3.72 ERA in 14 starts with the R-Braves. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

By Bill Ballew / Special to MiLB.com | July 7, 2017 10:00 AM ET

Just over a year has passed since the Braves made Ian Anderson the third pick in the 2016 Draft.

Although his old life as a student at Shenendehowa High School is much different for the Rexford, New York, resident, he clearly remembers his thoughts while sitting in MLB Network's Studio 42 dugout. 

"Hopefully I look good on TV -- that's probably what I was thinking the most," Anderson said with a smile. "But really I was just thinking about how much your life can change after the Draft no matter what. If I was going to college, my life was going to change, and if I was going pro, my life was going to change. It took a little pressure off realizing it was a win-win situation."

One of the youngest players in that Draft, Anderson did not celebrate his 19th birthday until May 2 of this year. That fact has not prevented the right-hander from having success with the Class A Rome Braves this year. 

After posting a 2.04 ERA in 10 Rookie-level starts last season, Anderson owns a 4-4 record with a 3.72 ERA through his first 14 starts at Rome. In 65 1/3 innings this season, he's surrendered only 57 hits but has battled with his control at times, leading to 34 walks, the fourth-highest total on the circuit.

His 83 strikeouts, meanwhile, rank seventh in the league. 

"I've had a few bad starts sprinkled in with some good ones," Anderson said. "Guys in the big leagues have the ability to go out there and hit their spots every time. At this point that's what I'm looking to do on a more consistent basis."

Two of Anderson's roughest outings occurred on May 20 and May 30, when he allowed five earned runs over four innings in each of those appearances. Between those starts, on May 25, he gave up only one hit over six scoreless frames while striking out a career-best 11 batters.

To reduce the number of peaks and valleys, Rome pitching coach Dan Meyer has encouraged Anderson "to trust his stuff" by realizing his offerings are good enough to get hitters out on a consistent basis.

While Anderson's fastball sits in the low 90s with excellent movement, many of his strikeouts have come via his above-average changeup. He also mixes in a late-breaking curveball and throws all his pitches from the same release point, making it more difficult for hitters to decipher.

Video: R-Braves' Anderson fans Florial

After Anderson pitched four scoreless innings on June 26, the Braves had him skip a start during the first week of July. 

"[With Ian] being a Northeast kid, we just want to be extra conservative this first full season," Atlanta general manager John Coppolella said. "Nothing out of the ordinary. … [We're] resting him to preserve innings more than anything."

Anderson admits he is enjoying life as a professional pitcher and has no regrets regarding his decision to sign instead of opting for the college route. In fact, the toughest part has been some of the challenges off the field, which he would encounter regardless of the path he decided to take.

"I think I'm fairly mature for my age, but there's so much I've had to learn about living on your own," Anderson said. "I always joke that we will go back to our apartment in Rome and there will be no food or anything else, stuff you take for granted when you're at home with your parents. I'd say that's been the biggest thing I've had to adjust to."

In brief

Tourists at the top: Asheville is fourth in the league with a team batting average of .259, eight points behind top-ranked Hagerstown. Three Tourists are atop the individual leaderboard, however. Third baseman Colton Welker leads the loop at .365, followed by outfielder Vince Fernandez at .324 and infielder Jose Gomez at .318.

The Hagerstown Hammer: Daniel Johnson is a major reason why the Suns own the SAL's best overall record. The left-handed hitter, who was Washington's fifth-round pick out of New Mexico State in 2016, leads the league in homers (16), slugging percentage (.564) and total bases (158) and is tied for first with 88 hits. He is also third with 54 runs scored and ranks fifth with a .314 batting average. Johnson is riding an 11-game hitting streak, during which he is 22-for-48 (.458) with three home runs and 13 RBIs.

Taylor triumphs: After losing his initial seven decisions in 13 appearances (12 starts) through the season's first three months, Columbia's Blake Taylor earned his first victory in a 1-0 win over Rome on July 3. The left-hander scattered three hits over a season-high eight innings, throwing 96 pitches. Colby Woodmansee scored the Fireflies' lone tally, an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth, before closer Adonis Uceta sealed Taylor's triumph by notching his ninth save in as many opportunities.

Bill Ballew is a contributor to MiLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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