Bummer

When misfortune strikes the young, people have a tendency to assume the future. "He was going to be a superstar." "She was going to be a senator!" "They were going to be the best musicians Missouri's ever seen." The future is never knowable at any point, and I think most people understand that, but when one path gets blocked, all of a sudden people act like they're damn sure of what would've gone down. According to people, people are high achievers. Or at least, unfortunate people are would-be high achievers.

It's usually not true. I guess I can't prove that. Odds are, it's usually not true. Not every promising young person goes on to become an accomplished older person. So not every promising young person who suffers through life-changing misfortune would've gone on to become an accomplished older person otherwise. Some of them would've become average. Some of them would've become less.

It's almost certainly true in the case of Ryan Anderson. There are prospects who flame out, and then when you look back, you realize, well, I guess they weren't that good. Ryan Anderson was that good. Ryan Anderson was an outrageous prospect, well on his way to having an outrageous career.

Anderson was stopped by injuries. Devastating injuries, involving his shoulder. He's not unique in that regard. Shoulder injuries have ruined countless careers throughout baseball history, and they'll continue to do so in the future, albeit less and less often. What makes Anderson stand out is what he managed to do before the injuries became such a significant part of his life.

#23. #7. #9. #8. #14. The Mariners drafted Anderson in the first round in 1997. They drafted him a few picks after Lance Berkman, and one pick before Adam Kennedy. Those numbers represent where Anderson stood on Baseball America's lists of the top 100 prospects for the next five years. He shot to the top. He was ranked #14 overall before the 2002 season even though he hadn't thrown a pitch in a year and a half.

Maybe you prefer this list: #1, #1, #1, #1, #1. Those numbers represent where Anderson stood on Baseball America's lists of the Mariners' top prospects for the next five years. Ryan Anderson. He had a little hype.

And he deserved it. You probably remember that he was obnoxiously tall, checking in at 6'10. "Little Unit", and everything. You probably remember that he was a lefty with a high-90s fastball. What you might not remember are his numbers. The numbers he put up in the minors are staggering.

Anderson debuted with single-A Wisconsin at the age of 18. In 111.1 innings, he posted a K/9 of 12.3. That was second to A.J. Burnett's 14.1 among starters, but the next-closest competitor came in at 10.7. Burnett, by the way, was 21. Anderson was among the youngest players in the league.

The next year, Anderson moved up to double-A New Haven. In 134 innings, he posted a K/9 of 10.9. That was the best strikeout rate by a starter in the league. The next-closest competitor came in at 9.9. Anderson was the second-youngest pitcher in the league.

The next year, Anderson moved up to triple-A Tacoma. In 104 innings, he posted a K/9 of 12.6. That was the best strikeout rate by a starter in the league. The next-closest competitor came in at 9.9. Anderson was the second-youngest pitcher in the league.

Sure, Anderson's walks were a little elevated. Not surprising for a guy who got into so many deep counts. And there were concerns about his maturity and cockiness. But then again, he was a kid. He was a kid with unbelievable talent. Of course he'd have some growing up to do. Between three levels in his first three years, getting all the way up to triple-A, Anderson threw 349.1 innings over 66 starts and struck out 460 batters. That's flabbergasting. I can't remember the last time I used the word "flabbergasting". But Anderson's strikeout numbers flabbergast.

And then it was over. Anderson dominated in Tacoma, and then he got hurt, and hurt, and hurt. He had a very brief fling with the Brewers in 2005. It didn't go anywhere. In Anderson's last professional season of significance, he was a 20-year-old in triple-A with a league-leading strikeout rate. Poof.

I don't bring this all up to torture you. You don't need to be tortured. I don't bring this up as a cautionary tale for trying to build around young pitchers. You know it's risky to build around young pitchers. I bring this up because I happened across this article earlier in the morning from AZCentral.com. Quote:

"The Japanese want the vegetables to taste like vegetables, and along with appreciating the taste, they understand the health benefits of making vegetables such an important part of the cuisine," said Sushi Roku sous chef Ryan Anderson.

The story of Ryan Anderson leaving baseball's frustrations behind for a career in cooking is an old one. The man's still at it. It's a weird sensation to read his name in this context. He could've been so much. He could've been the best pitcher in the game. He's a sous chef. I didn't even know a sous chef was a thing until just a couple years ago. He's good at it, I'm guessing. He's happy at it, I'm guessing.

Ryan Anderson. It's not tragic. That isn't the word. He quit doing one thing his body couldn't do in order to do something else that it can. But, those numbers. Ryan Anderson, today, is 32 years old. He's the same age as Colby Lewis and Rick Ankiel. It's great for Ryan Anderson that he found something he's good at, but baseball's worse off without the career he could've and should've had.

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