I’m going to start a new series by highlighting some “Make or Break” prospects that could break out this year by looking at outfielder Jacob Anderson.
Who’s a “Make or Break” prospect? Basically, it’s a player who either needs to take the next step at a higher level, needs to rebound from one or more years of regression or needs to come back healthy and productive in 2014.
Jacob Anderson fits all three of those categories and, despite being only 21 for the 2014 season, he is going to have to show that he can make adjustments in professional ball. Anderson was a very highly touted prospect drafted in the supplemental round of the 2011 draft and took home a signing bonus of almost $1 million. He blew the doors off of the Gulf Coast League in his first attempt at pro ball, going 15 for 37, hitting two doubles and two home runs in 9 GCL games after signing on with the Blue Jays in 2011.
Landing on top prospect lists before the 2012 season, Anderson failed to capitalize on the momentum, hitting .194/.271/.304 and saw his K% skyrocket to 33.5% and his walk rate drop to just 5.1%. The bat that was said to have some of the best raw power in the 2011 draft failed to materialize in games as Anderson hit just fourteen extra-base hits in 215 plate appearances with the Bluefield Blue Jays. 2013 was a complete wash for Anderson as rib surgery and a subsequent infection wiped out his entire season.
What does 2014 hold for Anderson? First of all, he needs to show that he’s healthy in Spring Training. If he does that and he can get his timing back, the big question will be whether the Blue Jays decide that he’s ready to get a full-season assignment in Lansing. He’s not too old for that level and, if the Blue Jays’ staff believes that a full season of at bats is going to be the biggest benefit for a player who missed an entire year, he could fit right in with a young core group there. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Anderson assigned to Lansing at least until short seasons start, at which point a decision of whether to keep him there for the rest of the season or send him down to Vancouver to finish things out would be made.
Another thing that’s on Anderson’s side is the fact that there aren’t hordes of outfielders that would stand in his way if he’s back and is showing the upside that he did in 2011. There really aren’t any high-upside corner outfielders in the lower levels of the system that could really stand in his way. If he has a great spring, the Blue Jays will make room for him.
2014 is going to be a really important year for Anderson. If he wants to put himself back on the prospect map, he’s going to have to come back strong from his poor 2012 and his injury-riddled 2013. I certainly wouldn’t put it outside the realm of possibility to see a healthy, strong and hungry Jacob Anderson back in the outfield mix for the Jays.