There might not be a player that contributed more to a team when they least expected it than Ian Anderson in 2020. The third overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ian has asserted himself as a significant member of the Atlanta Braves rotation for the foreseeable future. What is absolutely crazy to think about was that Ian was drafted strategically so the Braves could go underslot and afford to draft Joey Wentz and Kyle Muller in that 2016 draft but in just 10 starts has shown he was also 100% worth of that number three pick and looks to be a lock in the Braves rotation for a long time.
What went right in 2020?
Everything. Everything went right for Ian in 2020. Forced into the rotation because of injuries and just very poor performances by his counterparts, Ian made an impact from day one. In six games in the regular season, Ian put up 1.1 fWAR thanks to an 11.9 K/9 rate, 1.95 ERA, 2.54 FIP, and an outstanding 52.5% ground ball rate. He showcased a supreme changeup, which isn’t really a stretch to say grades as a double plus changeup, to go along with his plus curveball, and because of his odd arm angle his fastball, which sits in the mid-to-high 90s, while relatively flat is incredibly deceptive. Combine that with the fact that hitters have to be ready for 97 while also battling off of a double plus changeup and you have two pitches that can eat up major league hitters. All of these amounted to just absolutely fantastic starts and these metrics:
The praise doesn’t stop there! Ian kept hitters so off-balanced that he allowed just one barrel, an absolutely insane statistic. Hitters hit just .104 against his changeup with a .146 slugging percentage, .212 against his fastball with a .288 slugging percentage, and .263 with a .316 slugging percentage so while his hitters hit it at an okay clip, his curveball remains a plus pitch. The future is extremely bright for Ian, especially if he can continue his dominance with his changeup, and his curveball returns as one of his best pitches.
What went wrong in 2020?
I mean, he walked too many people? His walk rate in the playoffs was 4.82 per nine but that was with two starts against one of the most patient teams in baseball who ended up winning the World Series. The only thing that truly went wrong is that he didn’t get more opportunities to start. Ian was an absolute star.
Outlook for 2021?
It will be hard not to appoint Ian as the Braves top prospect after that showing in 2020. He showcased a double plus changeup and really skyrocketed his value. His outlook for 2021 is pretty easy - he’s a lock for the starting rotation. Look for him to slot right behind Mike Sorka, and Max Fried to create a rather intimidating 1-2-3 in the Braves rotation.