Do you know who won the Indians minor league pitcher of the year award? It wasn't Danny Salazar, who played have the season in AAA before making a stellar Major League debut. It wasn't one of the superstar relievers like C.C. Lee, Preston Guilmet or Trey Haley. The winner was instead, Carolina Mudcats starting pitcher, Cody Anderson, a relatively unknown and undervalued prospect coming up through the Indians system.
Burning River Baseball has been following Anderson for some time now (he was picked as the 8th best prospect in 2012), but this is the first time his success has been acknowledged. Anderson was originally drafted out of Feather River College by the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010, but he didn't sign. The Indians took him the following season, moving him from a 17th round pick into a 14th round pick. This is still a very low pick to have any Major League expectations, but that hasn't stopped him from dominating at every level.
As a seasoned college player, Anderson was able to skip the rookie level entirely and pitched just three games and five innings in Short Season Mahoning Valley in his first season (2011). In his true rookie season (2012), Anderson spent the entire year in Lake County, where he held an ERA of 3.20 in 23 starts across 98.1 innings. His 6.6 K/9 left something to be desired, but he showed far more than enough to merit an advance to Advanced A Carolina in 2013.
Anderson made another 23 starts for the Mudcats in 2013, but showed vast improvements. Instead of averaging just more than four innings per game, he stretched things out to average 5.1 innings per start. He also improved his strike out count, fanning 112 batters, leading to a K/9 of 8.2. With an ERA of 2.34 and a WHIP of 1.10, Anderson was now showing more resemblance of a Major League prospect than a 14th round pick. The Mudcats team in general was stacked in 2013 (this should be great news for the Indians in a couple years) and Anderson, along with his most talented teammates, like Francisco Lindor, Tyler Naquin, Alex Monsalve and Will Roberts, joined the Akron Aeros at the end of the season for their play-off run. Almost certainly all these players, with the possible exception of Lindor, will begin next season in AA.
Anderson did struggle some during his three AA starts, reverting back to just 4 innings per appearance and a 5.68 ERA, but this was such a small sample size that there shouldn't be much emphasis placed here. His 23 successful starts in Carolina are much more significant. Anderson will almost certainly begin 2014 in AA, but could, with success, advance to AAA halfway through the year.
At this point there is no reason to think he wouldn't be successful in AA. As he has progressed he has obviously matured, striking out more batters, allowing less base runners and pitching deeper into games. He won the organizations pitcher of the year award for a reason and with it, his expectations changed from those of a 14th round pick to those of a top prospect. With young (pre-arbitration) starters like Salazar, Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer already in line for a long run with the Indians, Anderson would fit perfectly in the back end of the rotation. If the timing works out like it looks like it will, Anderson will be able to get a few seasons in the three to five spot in the rotation before the Indians lose control of the other starters and Anderson would have to move up. With no changes at all, the Indians look to have an absolutely dominant rotation coming soon and lasting through the rest of the decade.