“Buy Me 30,000 Shares of Lars, On the Hop!”

Lars Anderson is the subject of a nice profile up on WEEI.com this morning (by Alex Speier) and it got me thinking a bit about Lars and how he is now viewed among Red Sox fans, journalists and a group that I will loosely term ….. scouts.

Clearly, the bloom has faded off Anderson. Once regarded as a uber-prospect by the national scouting services, Anderson is now viewed by the same eyes as a dicey proposition. Go ahead …. survey the leading scouts who publish online and you will find declining enthusiasm for Anderson’s future.  I wouldn’t say that guys like Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein have completely puked their stock in LA and gone short, but they certainly aren’t big holders anymore. And with little support from the guys that common baseball folk revere, it feels like most Sox fans and Boston media types have given up on Anderson, at least as far as his future in Boston goes.

In that regard, it seems like Sox followers are now split into two camps. The first is quite small and it maintains that Anderson had a stumble in 2009 but it came early in his career and his chart has shown some improvement since June. The other camp is much bigger and feels the future at first base is Anthony Rizzo, a guy whose terrific 2010 numbers are only exceeded by his tremendous back story as a cancer survivor.

Now I admit to being a Rizzo guy as I love the fact that he killed the Eastern League this summer as a 20-year old, he reportedly can field his position, and given the fact that he missed a season with cancer, he is playing way above his level of experience. I also admit that I have seen Rizzo play just one game (Portland) and the other night was the first I have seen of Anderson. So my opinion is formed by statistical analysis and secondary material.  Not exactly the suff of a graduate dissertation.

That said, I’m not sure the crowd is treating Lars fairly. And here is the thesis.

It seems the world of “prospect watching” is myopically focused on age, production and a clean progression. So once a player stumbles and falls behind his age-group, it’s adios amigo in the minds of Baseball America-types. Moreover, even in instances where a guy is was playing well ahead of age, like Lars was in 2008, any sniff of “plateau” or “regression” is reason for a trip to the firing squad. Is this fair?

People, Lars Anderson was blowing up in 2007 and 2008. His numbers were simply jaw-breakers, particularly that August in Portland (2008) where as a second year pro, he stupidly slugged over .500. But here is the rub. When a player like that teases the audience, as Lars did, the public expects perfection. And in 2009, Lars was far from perfect.

In fact, for one reason or another, he stumbled badly. But rather than wallowing in mediocrity, Anderson picked himself up, put up a big April this year in Portland, and got his chart moving once again in the right direction.  And when he stumbled again, this time at Pawtucket, Anderson bounced one more time, finishing off the season quite strongly.

So it basically took Anderson an extra year to get to the spot where his meteoric start suggested he would be at the end of 2009. Mind you, had he stayed on course, we might be mentioning Anderson in the same breath as Mike Stanton, Mike Moustakas and Travis Snyder. Now Anderson’s critics may claim that the “extra year” is critical. And the reason it took Anderson some more time to get here is because the player is flawed.

Time will tell if that argument has merit. And in no way am I sticking my neck out and guaranteeing that Anderson is going to be a big pro. After all, there are some things that concern me like his splits against lefties and the fact that he seems a bit loopy in the head. But it also occurs to me that Anderson, for some reason, is trading near his 52-week low and with that price action, he has to be a “buy” at these levels. I mean, this guy is trading for 8x earnings despite a great July in AAA, a real good August, and the fact that he is just 22. Isn’t that worth taking a shot?

Again, Anderson might not have the goods to crack the Boston lineup in 2011 or 2012. And for the record, I consider myself a Rizzo guy. But it seems like the short thesis on Anderson has been way overplayed. And when you get a crowded short like this, history says it probably makes sense to go long. As a contrarian and one who thinks “Baseball Development for Dummies” isn’t necessarily the gospel, I called my broker this morning and bought some Lars. Not a ton but if this guy does hit it big, I will own enough to approach Keith Law one day and gloat.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to ““Buy Me 30,000 Shares of Lars, On the Hop!”

  1. Excellent piece. I totally agree with the thesis of the “failed” uber-prospect. The guys in the know generally get it right and you pointing out the Kevin and Keith haven’t sailed on Lars is right. The rest of us as “fans” are typically more fickle. Maybe he won’t be Mark Grace, but he’ll make it happen in the bigs. Interestingly, it just may not be with the Sox.

    • Word up Hammer.

      Just seems to me that development is very poorly understood by fans, and in some cases, front offices. There seems to be a prism through which many view prospects and it is highly rigid and unforgiving. And once the picture gets blurred, the player is cast aside.

      At the end of the day, I’m not sure it really matters as the guys in the front offices get it and who really cares how Baseball America sees it. I guess the follow-up to this is something on how BA-Rankings are fun to discuss, but their accuracy and importance are slightly dubious.

  2. Mister Snitch!

    “…some things that concern me like… the fact that he seems a bit loopy in the head.”

    Have you met our second baseman, What?

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