This player preview was writtin by Victor Wei, who posts here as VictorW.
The Braves traded for Josh Anderson in 2007 to bridge the gap to future center fielder, Jordan Schafer. Two months later, the Braves added veteran Mark Kotsay to the roster, moving Anderson to the bench. By the end of Spring Training, however, the emergence of Blanco pushed Anderson off the bench and into Richmond.
In 2008, Anderson hit a solid .314/.358/.405 for the Braves' Triple A club, while stealing 42 bases in 49 attempts -- an amazing 86% success rate. Later that year, Josh Anderson became a September call up and put up a .294/.338/.426 line while swiping 10 bases on 11 attempts during the last 40 games. Ultimate Zone Rating loved his defense and put him at 13.5 runs above average in CF for every 150 games, a Gold Glove caliber performance.
There is no doubt that Anderson played well in his short 2008 stint, but the question for 2009 is how much of his success is sustainable. Anderson's plate discipline in the majors was absolutely abysmal in 2008. Jeff Francoeur had nothing on Anderson's peripherals. Compared to Francoeur, Anderson swung at a higher percentage of pitches outside of the strike zone, hit a smaller percentage of those pitches, and swung at less pitches in the strike zone. With a plate approach like that, it's no surprise that Anderson's walk and strikeout rates were also terrible.
Anderson finishing the season as a slightly above average hitter with a crazy .370 BABIP -- a minor miracle. His production with those peripherals will not be sustainable. Projection systems such as CHONE, Oliver, and ZiPS predict a line around .280/.325/.365 for Anderson in 2009. Anderson will need to improve his plate discipline before he should be slotted into the leadoff hole for the Braves.
On the plus side, Anderson is an excellent base runner. Does anyone doubt that he could steal 40+ bases in a season with around an 80% success rate? This puts his offensive value close to Gregor Blanco, who will likely slug at a rate below Anderson while producing an OBP about 40 points higher.
How much the Braves believe in Anderson's defense may be the deciding factor. He certainly looks like a natural CF with his speed, but is he really any better than an average CF? Anderson was Adam-Dunn-awful in center field in 15 games for the Astros in 2007, but very good in 40 games for the Braves. In either case, both of these are small sample sizes, and the Braves' scouting department will have to make the call here. If he's a Gold Glove caliber defender like he showed in 2008, then that alone could merit that Anderson deserves the starting job for 2009.
Even if Anderson doesn't start, he would be a great addition to the bench. At worst he'll make the perfect pinch runner and defensive replacement. At best he'll be a decent hitter with elite base running and good or great defense at a premium defensive position.
Fantastic preview by Victor. He gave me even more to think about with regards to Anderson and whether or not he's an everyday player. This question deserves a poll.