Even though Mike Soroka suffered a devastating Achilles injury just weeks into the season, with Ian Anderson emerging over the second half and into the postseason, the Braves officially have a Big 3. Soroka was a Cy Young candidate last year as a rookie, Max Fried should finish even higher than him in the race for the award this season, but the future for the Braves’ youngest ace could be even brighter than the both of them.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Ian Anderson is much more than a flash in the pan that’s just having some early success because nobody has seen him yet. The 2016 #3 overall pick has been the best pitcher on the team ever since the Braves called him up on August 26th.
You remember that outing, right? It was possibly the most impressive debut in Braves franchise history, which is quite a statement considering the amount of pitching that has come through this organization.
Anderson was matched up against Gerrit Cole, who had a 28-game winning streak in games he had started dating back to last year, and the rookie led his team to a victory behind a masterful performance. Until the sixth inning, the powerful Yankees lineup couldn’t even muster a hit. Luke Voit broke up the no-hitter with a home run — Anderson’s only mistake of the game — but he still finished six innings, allowing just one hit and one run while striking out eight.
That might be the most impressive part about the rookie — his strikeout ability. Unlike Soroka and Fried, who are known for inducing soft contact, Anderson is developing a personality for avoiding contact altogether. He has struck out 6+ batters in seven of his eight outings on the season, and the only one he didn’t record at least six punchouts, he went just three innings and struck out four. His K/9 was a healthy 11.4 in the regular season, and it’s only gotten better in the playoffs, as he’s struck out 17 batters in just 11.2 innings.
Anderson also hasn’t given up a run in the postseason, which puts him in some elite company.
Ian Anderson is the first pitcher under 23 years old to log multiple starts of 5+ scoreless in the same #Postseason since Michael Wacha in 2013.
He's the first @Braves under 23 to do so since Steve Avery in 1991. pic.twitter.com/ayNQr6pVzT
— MLB Stats (@MLBStats) October 7, 2020
What makes it even more impressive is that Anderson does most of his damage with just two pitches — a mid-90s fastball and filthy changeup. He sprinkles in a curve now and then to keep hitters honest, and it’s a pretty good offering in its own right, but there’s no doubt that he has the potential to get even better as he continues in his career.
Throughout this rebuild, we’ve seen plenty of highly-touted prospects flop. However, the guys that have panned out are looking like superstars. Plenty of critics have questioned whether or not the Braves have a pitching development issue, but considering they very well might have three aces with more to come, that’s no longer a fair question. Anderson is a bonafide stud, and he may be the best young arm we’ve seen to date.
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