Lars Anderson did it all.
The Jesuit (Calif.) H.S. product found the base paths (.406 OBP, 12.8% BB) and hit for power (.513 SLG) without striking out too much (17.9% K), resulting in a .397 wOBA.
The problem, however, was that Anderson put up these numbers playing for High-A Lancaster in the California League -- a hitter-friendly park in a hitter-friendly league.
With critics questioning the legitimacy of his success, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder was promoted to Double-A Portland last month. He's been doing his best to quiet talent evaluators ever since. Through 109 plate appearances, Anderson's average (.356), on-base percentage (.459), slugging (.622), and wOBA (.459) have all increased since leaving California for the Eastern League.
I had a chance to talk with the Red Sox top hitting prospect earlier this week, where we discussed everything from his critics to his fear of statistics.
Adam Loberstein: About two years ago, you were playing high school ball. Fast-forward to today and you're in Double-A, having had success at each of the three minor league levels you've played at. How's this transition from high school to the professional ranks been so seamless for you?
Lars Anderson: I don’t know, man. I was kind of surprised with it, really. I did instructional league [in 2006], and that went well. I just never really felt overmatched. That’s kind of the way minor league baseball is set up. They don’t want to put you in a place where you’re overwhelmed. Challenged, yes, but they don’t want to stick you right into the fire so you get burnt really badly.
AL: You really started burning things up in the California League -- both last year and this year. However, some have said that the success you had there was a product of your home ballpark, Lancaster, and the league itself. What's your reaction to that?
LA: I had heard all those rumors about how great of a hitters’ park it was. ...It’s definitely a hitters’ park, especially for lefties or righties that like to go the other way. Same with High Desert. The rest of the league, though, I thought they were pretty neutral parks. Some were good hitters’ parks, some were pretty pitcher-friendly.
What people need to realize is that you still need to have good at-bats. You still have to put the barrel of the bat on the ball to make it do anything. It helps out at times being at Lancaster, but you still have to have a good approach and have good at-bats to have good results.
AL: How about those other critics that say you're supposed to be hitting more home runs?
LA: In my experience, home runs have come in bunches -- for anyone. People get hot for a week, hit a bunch of home runs, and then they’ll go lay dormant for a few weeks [laughs]. That’s what I’ve seen. ...I think when you’re not hitting home runs, you try to hit home runs. When you hit home runs, you’re not trying to hit home runs. It comes and goes. It’s something that I think any baseball player shouldn't think about.
AL: When I look at your numbers, I see a lot more than a home run hitter. Doubles, walks, not a ton of strikeouts -- what's your approach?
LA: Yeah man, exactly. I never wanted to be thought of as this slugger that goes up there and hits .240 with a bunch of home runs. A lot of people like scouts project me as a power hitter, I guess. I don’t feel like a home run slugger. That’s not my swing or the way I want to be.
AL: What kind of adjustments have you made since your promotion to maintain that same kind of success?
LA: Kind of surprising, but it was a physical adjustment that I made. I got up here and the hitting coach, Dave Joppie, noticed something that I was kind of unaware of. My front shoulder was really getting low, and I was wrapping my body. Then the first thing you do is unwrap, your shoulder flies open, and you can’t really put a good swing on the ball, so I made a couple adjustments with my setup at the plate.
Also, I think you’ve got to be a little more aggressive here. If you get a fastball, you need to jump on it. They have more stuff to put you away with when you get down two strikes.
AL: Are you surprised by the kind of numbers you've put up in Double-A so quickly?
LA: I haven’t looked at my numbers in months, so I don’t really know what they are.
AL: Well, they're pretty good.
LA: No, no [laughs]. Yeah, I don’t want to know.
AL: You went to school in Sacramento, played in the California League -- now you're in Maine. How's life out there in the Northeast?
LA: It’s kind of a different world out here as far as the Red Sox dynamic. It’s a little more intense, but it’s still just a bunch of guys playing baseball. It’s cool. I’m happy here. It was one of my goals going into this season, to get here by the end of the year.
It’s just a stepping-stone as far as I’m concerned, though. I’m going to work hard to not be here for too long. This is not the final destination -- I hope it's not. I’m proud of the work I’ve done. I just want to continue with a steady approach, plan, and attitude towards the game.
Adam Loberstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.