A ninth-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, it's easy to miss, or completely ignore, 27-year-old Chase Anderson. If you don't live on the west coast, it's even easier. The 6-foot, 190-pound right-hander from the University of Oklahoma was called up from Triple-A in 2014 and produced immediate results, compiling a 9-7 record and 4.01 ERA with 105 strikeouts in 114 1/3 innings. He wasn't always in command (8.2 percent walk rate), but the results were there.
Despite his strong debut, Anderson wasn't a lock for the Diamondbacks rotation coming out of spring training, but he cracked a weak rotation and has continued to pitch effectively. He's still searching for his first win of 2015, but you can hardly blame him for that. In five starts, Anderson is 0-1 with a 3.38 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 27/7 K/BB ratio in 29 1/3 innings. His walk rate is down to 6.1 percent, and his strikeout rate is up slightly from 21.6 percent to 23.5 percent. Nothing appears fluky here: he leads the Diamondbacks with a 3.02 FIP (20th best in baseball), 3.39 xFIP and 3.34 SIERA.
Outside of allowing five runs to the Rockies, Anderson has allowed three runs or less in four of five starts, tossing three quality starts against the Dodgers, Rangers and Padres. Two of those opponents – San Diego and Los Angeles – lead the National League in runs scored. Despite the early-season results, Anderson is owned in just eight percent of Yahoo! leagues. In ESPN leagues, it's even smaller: 2.2 percent.
If you play in leagues that count quality starts instead of wins, Anderson is a top-50 starting pitcher. That's better than established veterans like Jordan Zimmermann, Anibal Sanchez and Cole Hamels. I'm still taking all three over Anderson, of course, but that doesn't explain why he isn't owned in more leagues.
In 143 2/3 career innings, Anderson has produced a 3.88 ERA (3.97 FIP, 3.70 SIERA), 1.32 WHIP and 132/47 K/BB ratio. His command has improved this year, as has his groundball rate (39.9 percent in 2014, 48.1 percent in 2015). Even though Anderson didn't allow many homers in the minors, the ground-ball rate improvement can't be undersold. In 2014, he allowed 16 home runs in his 21 starts, making him nearly trust in standard leagues. With improved control and more ground balls, those home runs become more tolerable given the overall package.
Anderson's latest start against he Dodgers was his best of the season, striking out seven and walking one across six scoreless innings. His next start is a difficult matchup against the Padres, but he's already worked one quality start against San Diego.
Already armed with one of the better changeups, his early-season improvements are encouraging and point to a potential breakout season. If you are struggling, or just lost a pitcher like Brandon Morrow, Anderson could be a viable option capable of carrying the back-end of your fantasy rotation and finishing as a top-50 starting pitcher.
Stats from FanGraphs.com