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See also: Today’s Baseball America Prospect Report
Astros center fielder Josh Anderson has always been known as a slash and burn hitter–a leadoff hitter who has some gap power, but was more comfortable slapping base hits through holes in the infield to better utilize his above-average wheels on the bases.
But this season, Anderson is showing an improved approach at the plate, which is making him a much more well-rounded player as a result.
After a 4-for-6 night on Monday in Double-A Corpus Christi’s 15-5 win at Arkansas, Anderson upped his overall numbers to .346/.387/.449 in 127 at-bats.
“The main thing is I’m getting my hands ready earlier now,” Anderson said. “And it’s made such a dramatic improvement to where my swing is no longer a push swing. I’m not just poking the bat out there, trying to find something and running like crazy. I start my hands earlier and move with the pitch. Really, the big thing for me right now is trying not to get beat on fastballs–especially ones on the inner half.”
With the improved approach, the fourth-round pick in 2003 out of Eastern Kentucky is driving more balls–as evidenced by his eight doubles compared to 16 in 524 at-bats at Corpus Christi last year. In his second straight season in Double-A, Anderson seems to have tapped into the power in his bat that previously eluded him for his first three seasons in pro ball.
“I’m generating more backspin on balls because I’m getting out in front more consistently,” he said. “I’m utilizing what power I do have, which is something I never was able to do in the past. It’s been exciting–after three years of trying all kinds of different things, now it’s starting to click.”
Anderson’s primary tool in the past was his speed. The 23-year-old led the minors in stolen bases in 2004 with 78 split between low Class A Lexington and high Class A Salem, then topped the Texas League last season with 50.
So far this season, he has 10 steals in 13 attempts.
“I’ve come a long way since ’04 in that I relied on pure speed back then,” Anderson said. “I went whenever I wanted to. Yeah, I had a bunch of steals and that builds some confidence, but sooner or later you have to learn to be more careful and understand the situations inside the game if you want to be a contributing player on a championship-caliber team. That’s where I am now–I want to steal bases, but I want to help the team win. That’s the ultimate goal for any leadoff hitter–you want to get on base and you want to put your team in a position to win games every night. You don’t want to go out there running like crazy. You can run your team out of some games when you approach it that way.”
Getting on base has been a challenge for Anderson in each of the last two seasons. He posted a .314 on-base percentage in 280 at-bats in Salem, and only raised that slightly last year (to .329) in his first full year in Double-A.
“That’s my job–to get on base and score runs,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t really doing that very well before, but it’s something I’ve got to do in order to do my job effectively. And now I’ve got guys like (shorstop) Ben Zobrist and (outfielder) Hunter Pence behind me. They take a lot of pitches, so the more I’m on base, the better. It was always important, but it’s never been more important than it is right now.”
Patterson Goes Off In Vero
Blue Jays left fielder Ryan Patterson had a career night for high Class A Dunedin on Monday, going 6-for-6 with three homers, two doubles, nine RBIs, six runs scored and 17 total bases in the Blue Jays’ 19-12 win against Vero Beach.
“My God, that’s a pretty good week for some people,” Dunedin pitching coach Darold Knowles said. “Heck, that’s a good two weeks. He’s a pretty aggressive hitter, but he’s got a good idea of the zone and pretty good pitch recognition. I don’t think there was anything he didn’t recognize last night.”
Patterson, a fourth-round pick out of LSU last year, is now hitting .323/.364/.581 with eight homers and 30 RBIs in 124 Florida State League at-bats. So far, he’s turned his power up a notch after hitting 13 bombs in 274 at-bats in his pro debut at short-season Auburn last season.
Dunedin punished Dodger pitchers with 21 hits, as Patterson and leadoff hitter Aaron Matthews combined to go 12-for-13 on the night.
“Matthews grounded into a double play in the last inning, which was a shame because Ryan’s eyes were about as wide as they could get in the on-deck circle,” Knowles said. “Matthews might have hit into that double play, but he hit a rocket. They both were hitting rockets all night.
“It was just one of those nights where their pitchers didn’t pitch well and our hitters didn’t miss any mistakes.”
Tough Night For Mendoza
Tommy Mendoza’s introduction to pro ball was as seamless as it gets. After the Angels drafted him in the fifth round out of Miami’s Monsignor Pace High last June, the righthander allowed just nine earned runs in 62 innings between the Rookie-level Arizona League and high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.
His first full season has not proven to be as easy. While occasionally dominant through his first six starts for low Class A Cedar Rapids, the 18-year-old had the roughest outing of his pro career last night as he allowed seven earned runs over five innings in a 10-4 loss to Dayton.
After retiring the first hitter he faced, Mendoza fell behind Paul Janish (the Midwest League’s leading hitter) 2-0 before he doubled. 2005 first-rounder Jay Bruce stepped to the plate and promptly hit the first pitch over the center field wall. After fanning B.J. Szymanski, third baseman Eric Eymann homered to make it 3-2 Dayton.
In the second inning, Mendoza seemed to have things under control with two outs and a man on first, but after getting ahead 0-2 to Michael Griffin, he allowed a double to right to make it 4-3 Dayton. He then got ahead of Janish 1-2, but the shortstop doubled to left again and Dayton took a 5-3 lead.
Mendoza cruised through the third and fourth, but allowed a leadoff single to Griffin in the fifth before Bruce hit his second home run.
“He left too many pitches out over the plate and they didn’t miss them,” Cedar Rapids pitching coach Kernan Ronan said. “His stuff was the same (it’s been all year).”
Coming from way over the top, Mendoza’s fastball has consistently sat from 89-93 mph. At his best, as he was when he threw seven shutout innings against South Bend in his previous start, Mendoza commands it confidently to both sides of the plate. He also throws a changeup and a true 12-to-6 curve due to his high arm slot.
“Last night I thought he had a better feel for curveball than his changeup,” Ronan said. “At the beginning of the year I thought he felt better with the change.”
Mendoza’s record now stands at 1-3, 4.10 with 36 strikeouts and six walks in 42 innings.
• Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young missed most of April recovering from a broken bone in his right hand and now hasn’t played since May 3 due to a strained oblique muscle. Young was hitting .256/.356/.436 in 39 at-bats. He is listed as day-to-day . . . Yankees shortstop C.J. Henry was activated from the disabled list yesterday. He missed nearly two weeks with a hamstring strain at low Class A Charleston. The first-round pick last year went 1-for-3 with a double in his return Monday . . . Orioles outfielder Val Majewski is on the Triple-A Ottawa disabled list with a strained oblique and hasn’t played since April 21. Majewski had missed the entire 2005 season with a torn labrum . . . Triple-A Albuquerque first baseman Jason Stokes has not played since May 1 as he recovers from a strained groin . . . Triple-A Charlotte established a franchise record with its 12th straight win last night when third baseman Josh Fields drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning. The Knights sport the IL’s best record at 24-6 . . . Righthander Kerry Wood will make his next rehab start for Triple-A Iowa Friday against Colorado Springs. Wood underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder in August 2005 . . . The Cubs called up utilityman Ryan Theriot from Triple-A Iowa when they re-assigned Michael Restovich.
Contributing: Matt Eddy.