Scouting Yankees Prospect #42: Kyle Anson

Anson made huges strides in '07

The Yankees drafted Kyle Anson out of Texas State University in the 10th round of the 2005 MLB Draft as a third baseman. Blessed with one of the best infield arms in the farm system, the Yankees moved him behind the plate in 2006. After missing that year with a knee injury, he finally made his debut as a catcher this past season and quickly earned the reputation as a great catch-and-throw guy.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Kyle Anson
Position: Catcher
DOB: April 21, 1983
Height: 6' 0"
Weight: 200
Bats: Both
Throws: Right

"If you had told me he played third base a year or a year and half ago, I would have told you that you were lying," Mitch Hilligoss said of Anson as a catcher. "Obviously I never saw him play there, but he looked like a natural catching, he really did. You'd never know he was a third baseman. I wouldn't have if you never told me."

The fact that he began his first year as a catcher in the South Atlantic League was quite a feat in itself, but after beginning the season sharing time behind the plate with Jose Gil, he quickly became the starting catcher as his coaches wanted his shut-down throwing ability in the games as much as possible.

"I was glad I was the starting catcher but I still had a lot to prove," said Anson, "that I could go the entire season without getting hurt, go the entire season in the hot weather catching, and still play well.

"It wasn't really an accomplishment because I still didn't really accomplish anything then or anything I still want to yet. I was happy, but it was just a stepping stone I guess."

Even after opposing managers began to alter their own running games with the presence of Anson behind the plate, he still managed to throw out better than 41 percent of would-be base stealers in his first year as a catcher.

"Honestly, it's so easy for him he didn't really have to learn much, that was just there," said Charleston manager Torre Tyson. "He had the arm slot, the short arm action, and he's got an absolute cannon. It's one of the best arms I've seen in pro ball.

"When he's on the money, which he'll go on streaks where he'll be locked in for like straight two weeks where he'll cut down fifteen runners straight with throws right on the bag. It's just fun to watch.

Boasting a cannon for an arm and a lightning-quick release, it was his innate accuracy on his throws that quickly caught the attention of everybody, including his own pitchers. In fact, Riverdogs' ace Michael Dunn is on record as saying his throws are accurate 90 percent of the time.

"Well there's ten percent where you throw it away," said Anson, a self-professed perfectionist, "that's a lot at the end of the year. I'm probably best at the arm strength and I'd rather be better at accuracy."

"This year he came around a long ways," Dunn said of Anson's other catching skills, "from the first time he caught me to the last time he caught me. It was a completely different guy back there when it came to pitch selection and pitch call. He had to learn that this year being it was his first year catching.

"We were more on the same page at the end of the year. Receiving the ball, at the beginning of the year, he had a little trouble catching my slider. At the end of the year I would throw it and I knew he was going to catch it right and we were going to get the call. He came a long way this year I believe."

Making huge strides defensively, offensively, he flirted with hitting .300 all season, hitting as high as .295 a week into August before finishing his first full year hitting .272 - a solid season for a first-year catcher.

"The first-half I was very happy with it," he said of his offensive performance, "but there at the end my batting average dropped 50 points in the last half. Overall, I wasn't happy with it at all.

"I wanted to hit .300 and I didn't, and I didn't have very many power numbers at all. I'm not very happy with it to be honest. I feel like I could have done a lot better."

Unable to cut himself some slack, his coaches and the Yankees in general were quite pleased with his offensive showing, especially considering the majority of his development went towards learning a new position.

"When you're converting to a catcher all of your energy is put into defense," said former Yankees hitting coordinator and current Blue Jays hitting coach Gary Denbo. "I don't, and I don't think anybody else should, expect a guy converting from an infield position to a catching position should put up impressive offensive numbers during that first year or two of that process.

"You're not seeing what you're going to see offensively. Once he becomes comfortable behind the plate and masters more of the game management part defensively, then I think his offensive numbers are going to improve."

Even possessing a built-in excuse, Anson isn't buying it nor is he trying to sell it.

"I wasn't tired from catching, that's an easy cop out for catchers to say 'hey I catch nine innings everyday and it's hot'," he admitted. "It wasn't that bad because I got a lot of days off. It being my first year catching, I didn't catch twelve or fifteen games in a row like the major league catchers or most catchers. I wasn't tired really, I just didn't hit that well."

Getting ready for his second full season in 2008, Anson will be making sure he doesn't have the same offensive pitfalls.

"This year I could have done a lot better with the average," said the 24-year old. " I'm going to try and get a lot stronger in the offseason where I can hit a few more home runs. Definitely, my average should have been over .300 and I don't think I played that well offensively.

"I'm going to get a lot stronger," he said of his offseason goals. "I'm going to come in heavier, not fatter, but put on some muscle. I want to try and improve the power game and work on a lot of receiving in the offseason before I get into Spring Training, maybe get my arm a little bit stronger.

"My goal for next season is to hit .300 and win a starting job somewhere. I want to be moved up for sure, but as long as that happens, it doesn't matter where."

Initially upset about being moved from third base to the catcher's position, he has embraced his new role in the organization and is hell-bent on getting to the major leagues someday.

"I want to do it on my own. It's always on my mind," he said of proving people wrong. "When I get up everyday and go to the field, I want to prove to myself and everybody that I'm going to be a major league catcher. That's important to me and that does keep me going."

While his critics point to his advanced age and lack of plus offensive numbers right now, he believes he will be the starting catcher for the Yankees down the road.

"Yes, someday I definitely do," he concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2007 Charleston .272 334 17 4 44 40 5 49 48 .365 .359
2005 Staten Island .252 131 7 0 10 24 7 27 26 .389 .305


Batting and Power. Anson is easily one of the most disciplined batters in the Yankees farm system and he has an excellent idea of the strike zone. In fact, including his college years, he has never struck out more than he has walked in any given season. He has wonderful pitch recognition as well, and despite the career .267 so far, he projects to be a .300 hitter down the road with a good on-base percentage, with his willingness to draw walks. He has very good gap power as well to both alleys, and while he is solid as right-handed batter, is even better from the left side. If he can improve his strength and add on some more muscle weight, he could develop into a double-digit home run hitter at some point.

Base Running and Speed. Anson is not a burner by any means but he is a plus base runner as a catcher. He doesn't have blazing speed, but he has very quick feet and natural base running instincts. Throw in the fact that he's one of the most intense players around and an elite hustler, Anson can be a factor on the base paths. He has the speed and agility to be a Brad Ausmus type in the speed department, able to steal double-digit bases perhaps.

Defense. Anson's combination of arm strength, quick release, and accuracy is among the best in all of professional baseball. He threw out better than 41 percent of potential base stealers this past season and everybody believes that percentage should get higher at he gains more experience. His quick feet also allows him to be a very good blocker behind the plate. He still has some work to do in framing pitches and working with his pitchers calling games to become the overall plus defensive player many believe he can be, but he made tremendous progress in both areas this past season.

Projection. Offensively, if he can get a bit stronger, Anson could project to become a Bill Mueller type as a switch-hitter with excellent plate discipline, a .300 hitter, and good gap power. He also has enough speed and small-ball skills that he could be an impact bat in the bottom half of a big league lineup. If he could improve his pitch calling and receiving skills, with his propensity to throw out runners, that would be more than enough to be a plus offensive player as a possible starting catcher. He is good enough defensively right now to project as a backup catcher but, with some more strength, he could be more.

ETA. 2010. Anson is a lock to be Tampa's starting catcher next season, and depending how quickly Francisco Cervelli [now on the 40-man roster] advances, could theoretically move up a level further. Despite 2007 being his first year at catcher, he's polished enough overall to reach the big leagues within three years.

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