Ian Anderson should have one less thing on his mind when he makes his final start for Shenendehowa High (Clifton Park, N.Y.) on Saturday in the New York state Class AA playoffs.As one of the premier high school pitchers in the nation, Anderson is likely to be picked in the
Ian Anderson should have one less thing on his mind when he makes his final start for Shenendehowa High (Clifton Park, N.Y.) on Saturday in the New York state Class AA playoffs.
As one of the premier high school pitchers in the nation, Anderson is likely to be picked in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft on Thursday. And just like 2015 first-rounder and fellow upstate New York native Garrett Whitley did last year, Anderson will experience the event in person from inside MLB Network studios in Secaucus, N.J.
But whereas Whitley remained on the board until the Rays selected him 13th overall, there's a very real chance that Anderson, who is ranked No. 13 on MLBPipeline.com's list of the Top 200 Draft prospects, will have his name called even earlier.
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Having verbally committed to Vanderbilt at the outset of his junior year, Anderson was already generating first-round buzz last summer on the showcase circuit before he opened eyes while pitching for Team USA's 18U gold-medal-winning squad against international competition in Japan. He appeared in only two games -- against South Korea and Mexico -- as a reliever, but he was nonetheless impressive, earning a save while striking out eight over 6 2/3 innings.
"Pitching for Team USA in Japan against South Korea was one of the tightest games I've been a part of, and I think that it definitely prepared me for pitching big games this year in front of scouts," Anderson said. "I think the experience will better prepare me for college or pros -- whatever comes next."
At 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, Anderson stands out as much for his remaining physical projection as he does for his present combination of stuff and polish. Working from an over-the-top arm slot, the right-hander typically throws in his fastball in the 91-95 mph range with downhill plane, but he can reach back for a few more ticks as needed. His breaking ball -- which is either a curveball or a slider, depending on who you ask -- is an advanced one for a prep hurler, with depth and late bat-missing action at 78-82 mph, and he can also throw it for a strike early in counts.
Though seldom used against high school hitters, Anderson also demonstrates good feel for a potentially average changeup in the low 80s that he sells nicely with fastball-like arm action. Meanwhile, throwing strikes has never been an issue for Anderson, who has a reputation for pounding the zone and attacking hitters.
But laying eyes on Anderson this spring has proved to be a challenge for scouts.
Beyond the inherent difficulties of scouting amateur players in cold-weather states such as New York, Anderson had a bout of pneumonia early in the spring that limited him physically and ultimately delayed the start of his season. And just when it seemed as though he would finally make his highly anticipated (and heavily scouted) debut on April 13, the right-hander had to be carted off the field after he strained his left oblique while warming up in the bullpen.
Luckily, the injury turned out to be nothing more than a minor setback. Two weeks later, Anderson was back on the mound to record the save in his highly anticipated debut for Shenendehowa on April 29. Anderson has continued to make up for the lost time by throwing four complete games, including a pair of shutouts, in his five starts for the Plainsmen.
Overall, he's 4-1 with a 0.77 ERA, a 0.69 WHIP, 53 strikeouts and seven walks in 35 innings.
"It's definitely been a little frustrating," said Anderson about his senior campaign, "but it also makes the season we've had that much more rewarding. Obviously being injured was tough, but seeing how our guys came together to play great baseball and win games definitely made it a little easier on me."
Meanwhile, Anderson vaulted into the Top-10-pick conversation with a dominant showing in his final pre-Draft start on Saturday, when the senior struck out 16 batters over seven innings behind a fastball that sat between 94-97 mph. He allowed an unearned run in the third inning, but Anderson was nearly untouchable after that, striking out 13 of the final 15 hitters he faced to lead the Plainsmen past Cicero-North Syracuse in the Class AA regional. He threw first-pitch strikes to 22 of 27 hitters and needed only 100 pitches to complete the outing.
"It's been pretty crazy [this year]," Anderson said. "There have been a lot of different emotions this spring, knowing that the Draft is coming up, but I've been trying to do my best to stay focused on the rest of the season here at Shen.
"I've had a great support group throughout this whole process. My parents and teammates and coaches have helped me out a lot and kept my mind in the right place. They've allowed me to focus on pitching my best every game."
The only thing that seemingly could prevent Anderson from being taken early in the first round on Thursday is his commitment to Vandy, a program that is known for landing many of its top pitching recruits. Yet, signability concerns alone may not be enough to deter teams from spending a considerable portion of their Draft pool to find out what the future holds for the promising young pitcher.
As for Anderson, he's keeping an open mind about his potential career path, whatever it may be.
"I think that if it's the right situation for me -- and I feel like it's somewhere where I can thrive and perform -- then it's something that I will have to consider."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.