In advance of Thursday's draft, we will be conducting Q&A interviews with many prospects who are projected to be drafted in the first round. For a complete listing of these interviews, click here.
Next up is Ian Anderson, a 6-foot-3, 175 lb. right-handed pitcher from Shenendehowa HS in Clifton Park, New York. Anderson, a Vanderbilt commit, is considered one of the top prep pitchers in this year's draft and is praised by his scouts for his projectable frame and aggressive approach on the mound. For more on Anderson, check out Minor League Ball's scouting report.
Anderson has been thought of as a mid-to-high 1st-rounder throughout mock draft season, and was recently projected as being drafted by the Red Sox with the 12th overall pick (MLB.com) and as the Yankees' pick with the 18th selection (ESPN). He is said to be a consideration for the Braves with the third overall pick, and was recently ranked by Baseball America as the 12th-best prospect in this year's draft. Anderson spoke at length with MLBDD on Monday night:
When did you first get into baseball as a kid and realize you loved playing the game?
"I've been playing baseball since I was about 4 or 5. My dad coached high school baseball for about 25 years up here so he definitely helped me get into the game. I've fallen in love with it from the first time I picked up a ball."
Growing up, who was your favorite team?
"The Boston Red Sox. Growing up in New York, it wasn't always easy."
Did you get to go to Fenway a lot growing up?
"I've been to a few games. Not so much as a kid, but as I got older like 13 or 14. There's no park like Fenway."
Growing up, who was your favorite team?
"I liked [David] Ortiz, the way he played. Manny Ramirez, [Dustin] Pedroia obviously. All position players. I liked [Jon] Lester, too, when he was with the Red Sox."
What was the moment you realized you would be able to turn pro and make a long-term career out of your talents?
"Probably after my sophomore year of high school. It was my first year on the varsity team and I had been throwing the ball pretty well. In our sectional championship game, I came into close and that was the first time I touched 90 with my fastball. That was the first time there were scouts in the stands. That's when I realized I could make a living out of this."
Most guys in this draft get a ton of scouting exposure being able to play year-round in places like Texas and Florida. Do you think your experience is a lot difference than the experiences of those guys? Does it hurt to be from a colder state?
"I think it's definitely a different experience. I'm not sure that it hurts the Northeast players. We went down to the East Coast Pro Showcase in Florida and beat the South Florida team. There are definitely good players out there. If you're good enough, they'll come find you. We get pretty good exposure. There are a lot of pros to playing baseball in the Northeast."
There have been a few top picks from the Northeast in recent years, with Scott Blewett (56th overall in 2014) and Mike Nikorak (27th overall in 2015) coming to mind. Jason Groome, from New Jersey, is a projected top-10 pick this year. What do you think that says about the influx of talent in New York, New Jersey and the Northeast as a whole?
"Even from about 15 minutes away from me, Garrett Whitley went 13th overall last year. I think baseball in the Northeast is at its peak right now, and I think it's still growing. It's good to get that out there, that the Northeast can develop players... and good ones at that."
Why did you end up choosing Vanderbilt? Which other schools pursued you?
"A lot of SEC and ACC schools liked me. I narrowed my list down to Clemson, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Just really the coaching staff at Vanderbilt, I have a really good relationship with the pitching coach, Scott Brown. And the family atmosphere, when I went down there for my official visit it was kind of a gut feeling that this would be the place where I could develop and fit in the best. Their track record of developing pitchers and winning games, that doesn't hurt."
Is it going to be a tough decision for you in a couple of weeks, when you have to weigh the possibility of going pro against going to a school like Vanderbilt? What's the deciding factor in that decision?
"I think I'm ready for pro baseball. It's just going to depend on whether its the right opportunity for me. Hopefully that plays itself out and it's not too tough of a choice. It's been tough, weighing the pros and cons of both. I think I've wrapped myself around it pretty well, so I'm definitely prepared going into this week."
You had an oblique injury this spring, are you fully healthy at this point?
"Yeah, I'm back to 100 percent. It was tough being injured, definitely. Fortunately, my team ended up doing pretty well and we're still playing in the playoffs. My guys got me the chance to get back out there and show what I can do."
Do you think it's tougher for teams to take a projectable, high school arm like yours over a polished, college player?
"I think it's definitely more unknown waters. With that being said, I think there's a huge upside to scouting out projectability and freshness, especially with the Northeast arms. I think there are definitely pros to both."
You have a reputation for attacking hitters on the mound, and scouts praise that? How important is it for you to go after hitters?
"I'd say I'm probably a bulldog out on the mound. I just love to compete when I'm out there. Even if my command isn't there that day or my stuff isn't what I want it to be, I'm going to do my best to try to go after hitters and try to get outs. Just battle out there."
What is your biggest strength as a pitcher?
"My competitiveness and just being able to go out there and have confidence in myself. Having a little bit of moxie when you're out on the mound and just going after hitters."
What do you consider the thing you want to work on the most and improve upon?
"Getting an everyday routine down. I think it's going to be tough getting into pro ball and getting down on the 5-day routine. I pitched once a week in high school. I've heard that's one of the biggest jumps and the toughest jump I'm going to have to make, pitching every five days."
Which major-leaguer, current or former, do you compare your game to the most?
"I was watching something on MLB Network last night and John Smoltz said something about comparing me to Jacob deGrom. I was like, 'oh, wow." I don't know about that too much. I like watching guys like [Zack] Greinke pitch, just with their command and the athleticism on the mound. I like how they can throw any pitch in any count. Delivery-wise, I've heard a lot of comparisons to Chris Archer. He's a tall, skinny guy too. I can see that one definitely."
How has it been finishing high school, graduating and playing in the postseason while preparing to be a 1st-round draft pick? Has it changed things socially for you?
"Not too much. My friends keep me grounded. My whole family does a good job of that too. I definitely try to fit in as best as I can and stay humble about it. You just can't let things like this change you, so that's one of the things I try to take pride in."
Do you have any expectations for where you'll be picked? Any specific teams who are showing the most interest?
"Hopefully, I'll go somewhere in the first round. I think that's a realistic possibility. As far as teams, I've talked to most of the teams, so at this point almost any team is in play maybe except like the Phillies and Reds [the top two overall picks]."