Ian Anderson Struggles in First Spring Start, Is It Time to Panic?

As spring training games officially kicked off this week, one Brave whose performance coaches and evaluators were keeping a very close eye on was Ian Anderson. The young pitcher took the baseball world by storm when he debuted in 2020, going 3-2 with a 1.95 ERA in his six regular-season starts and posting an even better line of 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA in 4 starts. 2021 was a bit uneven as he worked through his first full major league season. He ended up making 24 starts and posting a 9-6 record and an ERA of 3.58, showing flashes of the dominance he experienced in 2020 while also showing some lack of control and propensity to give up the long ball. He managed to pitch effectively in the postseason for the Braves. They won each of the four starts he made during their run to the World Series, even though he was unable to get past the 5th inning in any of the four starts. 2022 was more rough than good for the young starter, even though he posted a 10-6 record, his ERA was over 5, he posted a WHIP over 1.50, and each game seemed like a struggle for him to get through 5 innings, as the league had adjusted to his two-pitch mix and were not chasing his changeup like they were in 2020 and parts of 2021. Realizing he needed to add another pitch to his arsenal and work on honing his command, the Braves sent Ian to AAA in August last year. They didn’t bring him back up during the pennant race in September or for the playoff series against the Phillies.

In the off-season, there were reports that Anderson had added a slider and worked on cleaning up his delivery, and there is a sense of hope that he can get back on the track that he was on in 2020 and most of 2021 and perform like a legit top of the rotation arm. Those hopes took a big hit on Tuesday against the Twins as Ian Anderson struggled in his first spring start, getting pulled before he could get out of the first inning. He allowed 4 runs, all earned, on 3 hits, including 2 home runs and 3 walks, before being allowed to re-enter the game in the 2nd inning to record an out so he could end the game on somewhat of a positive note. However, there was nothing positive to take from this game, as many of the issues that plagued Ian in 2022 carried over into this start as well. Too many walks and hitters counts, home runs, and a lot of loud contact were the theme of 2022 and of Tuesday, and if these themes continue much longer into spring, it might be time for the Braves to make a difficult choice when it comes to their young starter. As a team with World Series aspirations each year, they cannot afford to simply wait for Anderson to figure it out with the big league team, and he has already shown too much promise to just stash in AAA while he works through his issues. Trading Anderson might be the best option. However, in order to get anything close to fair value for him, he has to return to form a little bit. The bottom line is that these next few weeks for Ian Anderson are crucial, and the Braves should be at least slightly concerned that the young pitcher might be broken…

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