Jays' Anderson a quick study

Blue Jays' prospect Jacob Anderson takes his cuts in the batting cage during spring training in...

Blue Jays' prospect Jacob Anderson takes his cuts in the batting cage during spring training in Dunedin, Fla. (JAMIE NEUGEBAUER photo)

JAMIE NEUGEBAUER, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:30 PM ET

DUNEDIN, FLA. - In taking Jacob Anderson in the first round of the MLB draft last June, the Blue Jays knew they were getting a player with a rare intangible.

Sure, the 19-year-old outfielder from Chino, Calif., is believed to possess raw five-tool potential, but he also looks to be armed with something that cannot be taught.

Jays batting instructor Dave Pano does not waste a word before hitting Anderson’s biggest asset.

“He is a very mature kid for being as young as he is,” said Pano, standing outside the batting cage at the Jays’ minor league complex. “He is not a typical 18- or 19-year-old kid. He handles himself like a professional and has caught on very well at the types of things he has to do.”

Offence seems to come easily for the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder. In his senior year at Chino High School, he batted .485 with seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 25 steals.

Last summer, he got his first taste of pro ball with the rookie-class Gulf Coast League’s Blue Jays where he bashed out 15 hits in 37 at-bats over nine games.

The humble Anderson, however, simply shrugs off his thus-far limited pro success.

“At first, I was a little nervous,” he said, before stepping up to launch several shots over the left-field wall in batting practice. “But then I just thought: ‘This is the same game I’ve been playing my whole life’.

“It was a really fun start, but there is a long journey ahead.”

Anderson signed with the Jays on July 26, despite a previous commitment to Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He did receive a $990,000 US signing bonus, but the teenager insists it was not about the money.

“My goal was always to play pro ball since I was a little kid,” Anderson said. “Pepperdine is a great school, but the Jays really believed in me and in my abilities and coming from them, it was really good news. I had great support around me to make that decision, but this is just something I always wanted to do.”

Throughout most of his baseball career, Anderson had split time between first base and third. Yet, the Jays identified his skill set as projecting to be a pro-level outfielder, a decision that he is simultaneously excited about and coming to terms with.

“I am getting more and more comfortable playing the outfield,” he said. “I played the infield for mostly my whole life, so I’m learning every day but just being (at spring training), it helps.

“It’s a work in progress,” Anderson said. “But I’m feeling comfortable and I like playing outfield.”

His coaches would like to see him fill out his big frame, and develop the consistency and command of the strike zone that young players tend to struggle with. Overall, however, they seem to love what he brings.

“He has professional-level at-bats,” Pano said. “He is so fundamentally sound right now and his hitting mechanics are outstanding. When he gets bigger and stronger, he’ll do very well.”


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