The Curious Case of Cody Anderson

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Where did Cody Anderson come from?

If you've found our little site here at Everybody Hates Cleveland, you've likely already researched the particulars of Anderson over the past 4 1/2 years. You probably found out that Anderson was drafted in the 14th round in 2011, a year after the Tampa Bay Rays had drafted him in the 17th round. You likely noted that his numbers were pretty good until 2013, when he broke out in the Carolina League and won the Bob Feller Award as the Indians Minor League Pitcher of the Year. You no doubt noticed his drop-off in Akron that wiped away a lot of his 2013 luster.

Of course, that all changed this year, as he rocketed from Akron to Cleveland in just over two months, where he shut down the Tampa Bay Rays over 7 2/3 innings, giving up six hits and a walk, while striking out four.

Other than some reactionary bumps, Anderson was never really on anyone's prospect radar as a long-term solution to a major league rotation. The difference between most websites and publications and the reality of a front office, is that the front office deals in the day-to-day workings of player development. While it's easy to say "Francisco Lindor is #1," because it's so obvious, it's a lot harder to understand the plans of what a real front office sees as the future of a player because a team like the Indians rarely shares their cards.

And when they do, they are often spinning.

Ponder this. According to Zack Meisel, sportswriter for @clevealanddot come and @ThePlainDealer when Anderson went to Feather River College in Quincy, California, "he tried out as an outfielder at Feather River College." He had never pitched prior to that year, but quickly moved to the pen because of his strong arm and ability to learn quickly.

Many Indians scratched their heads when he was drafted because the system actually had a bunch of bullpen arms already. That's okay, because the Tampa Bay Rays had to answer those same questions in 2010, after his first year with Feather River. Hell, Baseball America still had him listed as an outfielder who was a part time reliever.

I only mention that because in Anderson's early stints with Mahoning Valley and Lake County, he was mostly ignored by scouting services and "insiders" alike. This isn't a knock on anyone covering the Indians' organization, as it takes day-to-day observations to get a true gauge on a player. Hell, I was covering Kinston and Carolina 3-5 days a week, and it took me almost eight years to gain the trust of the scouts and people "in the know." Even then, I had to sell the rights to both  my children before I could gain actual knowledge.

The Indians, as most clubs are, keep things close to the vest, and Cody Anderson was that kind of pitcher. The one thing the Indians' front office is never worried about his minor league perceptions. When he came to Carolina in 2013, a local area scout told me that he was the pitcher to watch, and that "the upside is tremendous." When I pointed to why, he said, "The frame is there for something explosive, and his mechanics are the type that are always going to be easy to fix. The only concern is his unknown arm. He hasn't thrown a lot of innings. If it clicks, there's more velocity in there, and that's a game-changer."

That the area scout was from Detroit made me giddy.

His year in Carolina was exceptional, but he was always a curiosity for me. He's a big 6'4", 240 pounds, and if you would bet the farm before seeing him pitch, you'd guess he could throw it upwards of 100, but he doesn't. If he needs to hit 96 or 97, he can, as he did in the first inning against Tampa. Adrenaline kicked in, and he hit 97. That's not the norm.

Instead, what Anderson brings to the table is an incredibly efficient delivery, and a steady and sure make-up on the mound. He touches 94 or 95 without too much trouble, but usually sits right at 92. In Carolina, Anderson predominantly threw his fastball/cutter/curveball prior to 2013, and the Indians had him working on a circle change for much of the 2013 season.

After dominating the Carolina League, Anderson's much publicized workout regimen prior to the 2014 season was chopping wood.

I'll give you a second with that.

In a piece written earlier today via MLB's August Fagerstrom, Terry Francona noted that it wasn't all that great for his delivery.
"He was kind of doing some things that weren't the best for him," Francona said. "Remember the story of him chopping wood or chopping trees down? That's what he looked like -- like a lumberjack. But he didn't have that much flexibility and it was hard for him to drive the ball down in the zone."
Anderson spent 2014 playing catch-up, and when you are making changes on the fly, it can really screw around with a pitchers mechanics and health, which is basically what happened.

Another thing to keep in mind is that prior to that 2013 season, Anderson had never pitched in more than 98 1/3 innings in a season. At Feather River College, Anderson had pitched in a grand total of 25 games and 57 2/3 innings total.

To put it in perspective, the Rays drafted Anderson based on 13 1/3 innings pitched, and some scouting. Remember, he wasn't a pitcher prior, just had a strong arm. Not only did Lumberjack Cody come into 2014 tight from trying to cut down a redwood forest, but he also likely was dealing with unknown fatigue.

What never wavered was make-up, and the belief from the Indians that he could be a major league starter. As EHC's Steve Orbanek noted last year, while stuff was different, Anderson's impact last year could resemble what Danny Salazar did for the Indians in 2013.

No, Anderson didn't possess that nasty triple-digit heater, but he did possess outstanding stuff. Little did Steve know, or anyone else, that Anderson was going to take up the Rocky Balboa/Floyd Mayweather gimmick of chopping wood to get into shape.

Fast-forward to 2015, and Anderson is slotted right back where he started. That circle change that he started developing in 2013 has taken hold, the mechanics are back in sync, and the make-up is still there. What really stands out though is that workout regimen over the offseason. He's baseball fit this year, and his arm is showing just that.

But here's the thing.

While rankings systems are busy laying judgement on who is 1-10, the front office rarely looks at players in a similar fashion. They don't deal in teachers, marketing execs, food slingers or insurance salesmen becoming defacto scouts. Instead, they focus on what a player brings to the table, and if they buy in, one season of wood-chopping doesn't phase them with regards to placement in the system.

Sure, a lot more goes into it than that for a front office, but they weren't worried about Anderson to the point of him "dropping" out of site. While he started in Akron, like any prospect with high standing, the opportunity to move forward was all up to performance.

In Akron, Anderson came out of the gate firing, and in ten starts, went 3-2 with a 1.73 ERA and an exceptiona 2.99 FIP. His BABIP, while a small sample size, was at .273, and would suggest a likely regression, but the regression wouldn't likely make Anderson a bad pitcher, just a really good one.

The Indians bumped him immediately up to Columbus, which is a sure sign that they thought he could make the move to the big leagues this year. While the pseudo-scouts that we all know and love were saying, "there's no way Anderson pitches for the Indians this year," the actual Indians were busy setting up their Columbus rotation so that he could.

The rest is history.

Also take into account the slightly better mechanics, and the equally better physical shape. Is there more velocity in there to be had? Give him to Callaway for the next year or two, and I guarantee it. How much? Just a MPH could be tasty. More, and we have another top-of-the-rotation starter.

While fans are wondering where in the hell this start came from, this really isn't a surprise to the Indians' front office, nor is it to Anderson.

It was just a year late.

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