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Rockies prospect rankings: No. 6 Tyler Anderson must overcome injury issues

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Anderson's performance as a professional has been strong, but he has to overcome injury issues and have near-elite command for that success to translate to the majors.

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PuRP No. 6: Tyler Anderson (379 points, 16 ballots) | Summer 2014 Ranking: 11 | High Ballot 4, Mode Ballot 6

Anderson, a 25-year-old left-hander who spent his age 24 season at Double-A Tulsa, was expected to move through the organization quickly as a starter with a mid-rotation ceiling after the Rockies took him in the first round of the 2011 draft. The results have been there at every step of the way (career 2.39 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 7.2 K/9 over 328 IP), but unfortunately so too have been injuries that limited him in 2013 and caused the Rockies to be very cautious with him this past year in Tulsa. Colorado instituted a 75-or-so pitch count with Anderson in the early stages of the season, and only in the second half of the year did the organization allow him to toss more than 80 pitches in an outing (and never more than 100). Unfortunately, Anderson had to leave his final start of the year early with shoulder soreness, an injury concern that scuttled Colorado's plans to have him pitch in the Arizona Fall League.

In all, Anderson really was excellent in his limited workload in Double-A this past year. He had a 1.98 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 1.11 WHIP, and 8.1 K/9 while holding opposing hitters to a .216 batting average in 118 innings. Those are fine numbers that show Anderson's ability to dominate relatively unsophisticated minor league hitters with his excellent command. I'm truly interested to see if Anderson, who has been labeled a back-end starter prospect most of his professional career, can use that command to get major league hitters out consistently. He'll also have to prove that his arm can carry more than 120 innings in a season to stick in a big league rotation

Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs slapped a 50 Future Value (No. 4 starter) grade on Anderson while ranking him seventh in the system:

The big lefty makes you pause due to the funky delivery, but it creates deception and he's a good enough athlete to make it work for him command-wise. The stuff is at least as good as in college if not a little better: Anderson hit 95 mph earlier this month, but sits 89-92 mostly. His changeup is a weapon to get swings and misses but the question is on the breaking ball. He tinkers with a slider, curveball and cutter at times, but should be able to settle with at least one fringy/useable pitch to keep hitters off his best two pitches.

Meanwhile, Nick Faleris of Baseball Prospectus had Anderson ranked eighth in the system and gave him a likely future projection of a No. 5 starter:

Strengths: Pitchability lefty; comfortable working in and out with average arsenal; mechanics come with some funk, adding deception and allowing average fastball velocity to play up; plus low-80s changeup projects heater through bulk of journey before late tumble; short slider/cutter is a weapon, regularly sliding up handles and off barrels; curve is serviceable as change of pace; hitchy motion and arm action disrupt hitter timing.

Weaknesses: Lacks durability; stuff is fringy on paper; deception and quirks may not be enough to keep major-league bats off center; razor-thin margin for error in zone; lacks go to swing-and-miss offering for same side bats.

After a shoulder injury limited Anderson to just 89 2/3 innings in 2013, this year's 118 1/3 innings pitched with Double-A Tulsa seemed to represent an important step towards an overdue audition with the Big Club. Unfortunately, the good will earned over those innings was lessened when elbow soreness resulted in Anderson's early exit from the final game of the season, once again casting doubt as to whether or not the former first rounder will be able to handle the rigors of starter workload.

When healthy, Anderson relies on guile and deception in implementing a vanilla collection of pitches to surprising effect. The changeup is an equalizer, particularly nasty against oppo-side bats thanks to late fade and tumble, and he continues to improve upon his sequencing and placement to get the most out of an average fastball and short slider. Anderson could join Gray in a Triple-A assignment to start 2015, and should be available to help out in Colorado as soon as an opportunity arises, be it in the rotation or as a lefty arm out of the pen. The upside isn't great, but there's value in a steady, back-end arm provided he can stay healthy long enough to rack up some innings.

Anderson, who placed ninth on my ballot, was put on the 40-man roster at the end of the year. He will most likely use his first minor league option next season by beginning the year at Triple-A Albuquerque, a tough environment for any pitcher the Rockies place there. This year, when the inevitable wave of injuries or ineffectiveness hit the major league rotation, Anderson will be an option -- if he isn't injured himself, that is.

Contract Status: 2011 first round, 40-man roster, three options remaining

MLB ETA: Late 2015