Ian Anderson: Braves 2020 Rookie Of The Year
In late August, 22-year-old righthander Ian Anderson was invaluable for the Braves’ decimated rotation. He was, without question, the most valuable rookie contributor during the 2020 season.
Anderson earned a 1.95 ERA with a 41-to-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six starts and 32.1 innings. He helped stabilize a rotation that lost several key members because of injury or ineffectiveness. From day one, he drew praise for his composure, maturity and aggressive mentality.
Anderson out-pitched Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in his big league debut, allowing one run over six innings in the Braves’ win. Anderson followed by defeating the Red Sox at Fenway Park in his second outing. He became the second pitcher in history to defeat the Yankees and Red Sox in his first two career starts, joining the Indians Luis Tiant in 1964.
“It’s hard to even put into words (how good Anderson was),” first baseman Freddie Freeman said after Anderson’s debut. “How he was acting in the clubhouse yesterday, acting calm and cool. He’s a chatty guy before he starts. Not one of the headphones, stay-at-his-locker kind of guys. Very loose and relaxed . . .
"He was ready for this start. You could tell that he was meant to pitch. We have a good one, right there.”
Anderson, the third overall pick in the 2016 draft out of high school, exceeded five innings in four of six starts, allowing no more than three runs in any outing. He provided the team’s best start of the season on Sept. 12, when he held the Nationals to one hit over seven scoreless innings.
Anderson’s control was spotty in the minors. He walked 4.3 per nine innings in 2019 in a season he spent primarily at Double-A Mississippi, even as he ranked fourth in the minors with 172 strikeouts.
He had control issues at times in his big league debut. He issued three or more walks in three starts, but he showed an excellent ability to navigate trouble and mitigate damage.
Anderson's fastball/curveball combination met expectations, generating a large share of whiffs, while his changeup has continuously improved and at times looked like a potent third weapon.
— Lefthander Tucker Davidson, the Braves’ No. 10 prospect, made his big league debut on Sept. 26. He recorded just five outs against the Red Sox, though he was hurt by two botched infield plays that could have extended his outing.
The Braves have been impressed with Davidson, who will surely get more looks in 2021. Some believe he’ll eventually settle as a reliever, but the Braves are committed to him as a starter in the immediate future.
— Now that Anderson is an established major league contributor, the Braves’ next anticipated pitching arrival will be Kyle Muller. Listed 6-foot-7, 250 pounds, Muller is a hard-throwing lefthander whose command will make or break him as a starter. He’s been pitching at the alternate training site in Gwinnett.
Muller’s debut could come some time in the second half of 2021. His physical ability is tantalizing, and if he throws strikes more consistently—which is obviously easier said than done—his ceiling is very high.