Back in March, the Rays signed Cuban defector Leslie Anderson to a 4-year, $3.75 million contract. After starting the season in single-A, Anderson has moved very quickly through the organization hitting .303/.371/.453 with 9 home runs at three different levels. With his recent promotion to triple-A Durham, it seems almost certain that he will be promoted to the Rays during the September roster expansion.
But what kind of hitter can we expect once he is promoted and how will the Rays use him? Let’s take a closer look.
Well, with splits like that, Anderson will almost certainly never be an everyday player for the Rays. He does have a big disparity in Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) versus lefties (.203) and righties (.377). That might explain some of the disparity in his splits. Still, we would be surprised if he saw much playing time, if any, versus left-handed pitchers. But he should get a lot of looks against righties.
What kind of hitter is he?
He is a solid contact hitter striking out only 11.9% of the time. For comparisons, Evan Longoria’s strikeout rate is 21.6%, BJ Upton is at 29.6% and Carl Crawford’s is 17.3%. As a result, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is a very good 37-to-24. The 24 walks translates to a walk rate of 7.7%. That is comparable to Crawford (7.4%), but would be one of the lowest rates on the team.
Anderson is also an extreme groundball hitter (49.2%). The only member of the Rays with regular playing time and a higher groundball rate is Crawford (50.6%). The groundball rate explains the lack of power even though he has a solid 12.5% HR/FB rate. Only Carlos Pena (23.7%) and Matt Joyce (16.7%) have higher rates on the Rays.
Where will he play?
So far he has almost equal playing time in left field (127 ABs) and first base (121 ABs). It just so happens that the Rays two biggest free agents-to-be play left field (Crawford) and first base (Pena). Is Anderson being groomed to replace one of those guys? Maybe.
The Rays will never let Anderson face a lefty. But if the Rays decide to fill left field or first base in 2011 with a platoon, Anderson will almost certainly be the left-handed portion of that pair. Right now, Anderson looks more like plan B if the Rays can’t find better options this off-season or if Desmond Jennings still isn’t ready when camp breaks in 2011.
Who does he remind us of?
This is a tough one. Anderson is a lefty-hitter with big splits and an outfielder with a decent glove. But he has little power and no speed. Of the current crop of players, the best comparison somebody suggested was David Murphy of the Rangers. If Anderson were ever given a shot to play everyday, he’d probably be a similar 275-15-80 hitter with a .340-.350 OBP and above-average defense.
He is very similar to many of the low-budget options the Rays sign. But his low-walk, high-contact rate does set him apart. Slide him into the 5-hole and he could be a solid run producer versus right-handed pitchers for the Rays.