Time is Right For Anderson to Assume a MLB Role
Back in March 2010 the Tampa Bay Rays signed a former Cuban National Team member who I truly felt might be the heir apparent to the Rays 1-bag spot. When Rays Executive VP of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman inked 1B/OF Leslie Anderson to a 4-year, $ 3.75 million dollar deal, I truly thought the Rays had found an International baseball candidate who had the pedigree to one day man the First Base bag for the Rays. The signing of Anderson came out of nowhere as most people thought the Rays were focused on signing Anderson’s Cuban National team member Jose Julio Ruiz.
Sure back in the Spring of 2011, Anderson came into the Rays farm system fold possibly needing some primping and adjustment to the speed and pace of the American version of baseball with both the minor and major league game, having unique nuances and idiosyncracies. And with the Rays huge and gaping hole at First Base this off-season, I thought we might at least hear Anderson’s name as a possible option, but there has been only silence concerning Anderson.
With Carlos Pena slipping in and out of his slumps in 2012, I thought the Rays would at least entertain a “Anderson sighting” this past September, but instead he finished out his season at the Rays Triple-A team, the Durham Bulls and was done for the season. I’m curious if Anderson is still in the good graces of the Rays, or if for some reason there is another reason for him not even getting a head-nod when the Rays had their opening at First Base this off-season.
I automatically had to tilt my head a bit and wonder if there might be an offensive problem with Anderson that would merit the Rays possibly keeping his name firmly in the darkness. Instead I found Anderson currently sporting a .306 average with Navegantes del Magallanes of the Liga Venezuelian Beisbol Profesional this Winter. Add to this the fact Anderson was selected as an All-Star twice in 2012 while at Durham, both as a mid-season selection and a post-season All-star.
Sure you can say this was 2 seasons after MiLB.com selected Anderson as an Organization All-Star as he spent time with Double-A Montgomery and Durham, but he was also selected as a Arizona Fall League Rising Star back in November 2010. I then had to really scratch my noggin a bit after seeing that Anderson hit .309 during the Bulls 2012 season and showed power (14 HR) and netted 200 bases during the season in 116 while manning the First Base bag for the Bulls.
Seems almost anyone else showing a bit of power along with a nice average above the .300 mark might have at least gotten a longer look this past September possibly manning the 1B bag as Pena was trying to find his groove again. I mean all Anderson did was finished with the 3rd highest average in the International League along with placing 13th in OBP (.355), but 5 of the player ahead of him in this stat are former MLB players.
I had to think possibly Anderson might be a defensive liability since his bat seemed to have some steam on it, but again I was left wondering why this guy has not at least gotten an invite to the Rays MLB camp in any of his previous Springs to at least get a chance to see if he can groove a curveball or defend the line with clarity against a higher caliber of player. Looking at Anderson’s fielding stats for 2012 he had 276 chances in the field and only made ONE error, and that was during 1 of his 50 games playing in the Bull’s outfield.
only spent 50 games at First Base in 2012 for the Bulls, having 184 chances to make an error and kept his record unblemished and also through in 12 assists and 15 double plays for good measures. I think a better example of his defense might be his 5 errors committed in 500 chances in 63 games at First Base in 2011 for the Bulls. Over his short stint in the Rays farm system Anderson has maintained a .989 Fielding Percentage with only 14 career errors, and 7 of those were committed the last 2 seasons.
Not sure what Anderson has to do to make the Rays think he is a logical choice or even a fill-in positional player who can man the First Base bag and possibly also play a corner outfield spot in the major leagues. I am truly hoping when the Rays officially announce their Spring Training Invites, Anderson finally get his chance to turn a few heads and show he could be the answer not only for the Rays 2013 First Base void, but also for 2014.
I mean it is not like the Rays have to make some huge financial investment to give Anderson a chance, he is still under contract and even if the Rays did extend his contract a few seasons, he should be the primary in-house player to fill any void or injury.
I mean by his batting average, we know the guy can hit, and with his stellar defensive numbers maybe it is time for the Rays to give Anderson some rope and see if he can not only impress, but possibly lasso himself a Rays roster spot this Spring. I think he has not only paid his minor league dues, but has shown he has the talent, ability and talents needed to man the First Base bag for this team.