This past weekend the Gwinnett Stripers came to Scranton Wilkes-Barre to take on the Railriders, just days after the Braves promoted a quartet of top prospects from Mississippi to Gwinnett. That quartet - Cristian Pache, Ian Anderson, Drew Waters, and Tucker Davidson - had been having great seasons in Double A, but now they are one step away from Atlanta.
So with Gwinnett in my hometown, it meant a chance to get a first in-person look at all four of these prospects as I had missed Waters by two days in the GCL during the Talking Chop Minor League Team trip to Orlando in 2017 (Waters and Kevin Maitan were promoted on a Saturday night from the GCL to Danville, with us in town for Monday’s game).
Ian Anderson was making his second start in Triple A when I caught him on Sunday. Anderson struggled with his command in that first start on Tuesday- but it’s hard to knock his first start command troubles as he was pitching with a new ball and didn’t have much time to adjust in a bullpen session after being thrown right into the fire following his promotion.
Sunday’s start didn't have those issues with command, as Anderson was dominant. Sure he had three walks, but one was to the generously listed at 5’7 Terrance Gore and his small strike zone and another was a bit of a giveaway walk after getting down 3-0 in the count quickly.
Anderson threw 92 pitches in his six innings, giving up three hits and one run while striking out six. He nearly gave up a second run, but Cristian Pache robbed a home run straight out to center resulting in an RBI double instead of a two run homer.
Anderson’s fastball topped out at 94 MPH, but was sitting more 92-93 MPH. It had plenty of life and frequently had downhill plane on it. I’d say the pitch is a 60 grade pitch at present, but when you realize he has plenty of projection on his lanky frame, getting to a future 65 grade is very reasonable to project.
Ian Anderson full pitch chart for today versus Scranton Wilkes-Barre— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
6 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 6 K
92 pitches pic.twitter.com/HILBaAblzK
The curveball is already a dangerous pitch, but wasn’t entirely consistent. I think that’s in part due to this being his second start with the Triple A/MLB baseball. The pitch flashed as a 65, but was typically between 50-60. I’d give him a future projection of a 65 on the curve, but at the worst he should be a consistent 60.
The changeup was barely used early, but he got to it a little more as he went through the game. He really started to use it heavily late, throwing 11 of his last 27 pitches as changes. The pitch was a solid 50-55 for me.
With the potential for two 65 grade pitches and a third as a 55 grade, and above average command potential, it’s easy to see why so many people are so high on Ian Anderson. The results today against a strong Scranton lineup certainly reflected his ability, and his upside is further illustrated by his remaining projection.
Ian Anderson gets Tyler Wade for the strikeout— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
Check out the swing and misses on the fastball(pitch 1), change(pitch 4 for the K), and the movement on the curve(pitch 2) pic.twitter.com/c6nzKvXO82
Tucker Davidson is a player I started to buy in on late in 2017. After he struggled mightily to start 2018, his stock went down even though he started to pitch better in the second half of the year. Fast forward to this year and Davidson dominated Double A before getting called up to Triple A this past week. Saturday night was the game I saw him, and this was Davidson’s Triple A debut.
Guessing Tucker Davidson is done at 91 pitches. Here’s his full chart— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
5 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 4 K (3 looking)
Run given up is an earned run but calling it earned is questionable as defense caused it
More this week on Tucker pic.twitter.com/ibapoZMJPR
Davidson pitched a great game, going five innings and giving up two hits and two walks, and one run though that run could have just as easily been unearned as one of those hits could have been an error on the left fielder. Davidson also struck out four, but three were looking and just one was swinging.
Davidson has a solid fastball, topping out at 95 MPH from the left side, typically 91-93 and a few 94’s in there. The pitch didn’t move a ton and I’m not totally sure if that was because he was getting used to the new ball and grips, but it didn’t get many swings and misses and it resulted in plenty of foul balls. Those foul balls made him need to put more effort in, and is why he needed 91 pitches to get through five innings of work. This pitch is more of a 50 grade as it was too hittable despite having shown at least plus velocity from the left side. I’m going to be watching his next few starts to see if this was something that can adjust as he adjusts to the new ball.
The good news is Davidson had a truly plus curve, a 60 grade pitch that was consistently a plus offering, and at times flashed as a double plus pitch. It’s easy to slap a 60 grade on it, but if he improves after more time with this ball, it wouldn’t shock me to see him move up to a 65 grade on the curve.
Tucker Davidson curve in warmups pic.twitter.com/zoEL1GK53d— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
The change for Davidson is another solid pitch, one I’d grade out as a strong 50 pitch. That gives Davidson pitches graded as 50/60/50, and command that’s looking like it would be a 50-55 grade for me as well. Davidson may have had a fourth pitch as he threw a pair of pitches I couldn’t easily identify, not quite sliders and not quite curves. This slurvy pitch is one I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, especially with how infrequently it was used by Davidson.
Davidson is a guy who needs to either add some movement to the fastball or risk a move to the bullpen, as he projects more as a #5 starter than anything more without a swing and miss fastball or second plus pitch.
The defense was as advertised, Pache showing his range and making some quality plays in center....especially the homer he robbed in the third game of the series to straight away center field.
With the bat, Pache not only had a few hits in the series, but he made consistently hard contact even when the ball didn’t fall in for him. Pache ended up going 3-12 with a walk on the series, having all three hits fall in as singles.
Despite only being 20 years old, Pache was not overmatched by Triple-A pitching. He had a strong showing against a mix of prospects, AAAA guys, and some up and down big leaguers. Pache was every bit the prospect that he’s hyped up to be and should have a long and successful big league career with both the bat and the glove.
Cristian Pache with the long fly out pic.twitter.com/pqrLwpweyI— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
More hard contact from Cristian Pache but this line drive was right at the shortstop pic.twitter.com/hUnNWBhvZl— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
As impressive as Pache was, Drew Waters was nearly his equal while playing right field. Defensively Waters showed he has the ability to be a plus defender with both great reads and the ability to cover a lot of range thanks to his plus speed.
At the plate, Waters had the more productive series, also going 3-12 with a walk, but adding a homer, double, and 3 RBI onto his stat line.
Drew Waters with a hard lineout to center pic.twitter.com/ERjnCfWPWM— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) August 11, 2019
Early on during Friday batting practice I saw Waters was struggling a bit, maybe just pressing a bit. Either way Gwinnett hitting coach Bobby Magallanes stopped BP, gave Waters a bit of coaching, had Waters take some practice swings with the slight change, and then saw Waters start to hit the ball quite a bit harder from that point on. Of course that day was the day where Drew had his homer and double, so you have to wonder if that adjustment played into it.
Waters mostly just batted from the left side, facing mostly RHP during the series, but he mostly looked comfortable and had some hard contact in the series. He has real potential with the bat, and was every bit the prospect I was expecting to see coming into the series with potentially plus power as he matures along with the chance to hit for some average despite some swing and miss in his game. At this point I am willing to stand by the grades I gave him on his pre-draft scouting report, found here.