Cardinals catcher Bryan Anderson has hit at every stop of his minor league career, including a torrid first month of this season that earned him a promotion to AAA. Bryan was drafted out of high school in the fourth round in 2005 and he was a mid-season and post-season all star for the Texas League in 2007 and the Midwest League in 2006. He was also selected to play in the Futures Game in 2007 and Baseball America ranked him as the #85 prospect on their 2008 pre-season top 100 list. Bryan was kind enough to spend a few minutes talking with me about his draft day, his approach to hitting and his improved defense behind the plate. The Q & A is after the jump.
Congrats on the promotion to AAA – you were raking in Springfield and you haven’t dropped off much since the promotion, what has been the biggest difference in the pitching you’ve faced?
The biggest difference in pitching is just that they are more consistent with their breaking balls here – they’re able to throw them for strikes. You see quite a few more breaking balls and change ups, offspeed here, you know? A little bit better sinkers, you know? Just, the quality of pitching has kind of gone up a little bit.
So the best pitchers at AA are commonplace at AAA?
Yeah, pretty much. So every game you have to be ready. You have to have an approach every time you go up there.
Let’s talk a little about your approach: it seems to me that you have traded a few walks for some additional power this season – is that a conscious change in approach or just the way you’ve been pitched so far?
Yeah, you know, I’ve been working on my swing a lot and I’m trying to get a little more backspin, trying to get more gap to gap. Not really focusing on doubles or anything, but just trying to hit through the ball and just trying to get a good pitch and do it. I haven’t really thought about the walks or anything like that but, that’s just all I’ve been trying to do.
When you go to the plate are you looking for a specific pitch, or are you just reacting to what the pitcher throws?
I kind of look for a pitch. If I’m looking for a fastball – middle in or middle away, or sometimes I’ll sit changeup or if we have a lefty with runners in scoring position I’ll sit slider or curveball. That’s what I try to do most of the time, but sometimes when you are hot you just kind of get locked in and you are able to hit everything, you know? Those are the good days. Yeah, those are the good days [laughs].
Do you think your catching helps or interferes with the thought process at the plate?
The thought process? I’m pretty sure it can only help, really. You get to call games every day, so for the most part you have a good idea of what they’re going to try to do. I try not to think about it as if I was calling the game, you know, because every catcher calls a different game.
Well, I would think that the more pitches you see from behind the plate would help you recognize pitches while you are hitting.
Yeah, absolutely. We have the best angle for seeing pitchers, so, that helps.
What do you think you most need to improve to make it to the next level?
My defense, of course, is my number one priority right now – just trying to get better defensively: receiving and blocking, everything. And getting experience – working with guys every day. Coming up here there’s a lot of older guys and I get to learn a lot, you know?
There are reports that Mike Matheny has worked with you on your defense – what’s it like working with Mike and how has he helped you?
Yeah, that was great. He came by Spring Training for a couple of weeks and he really helped me out a lot. He really helped me more in preparing myself off the field – I mean he helped me a lot physically, behind the plate, but he also… we sat down a couple of times and just talked about being prepared to play every day and what you have to do and what it takes.
I imagine that having him around and having Yadier Molina, who’s one of the best in the major leagues, around in Spring Training is great just to watch those guys.
Yeah, I mean it’s awesome for me. Especially since that’s what I’m trying to get better at is catching and I love the position, so when you get to work with two of the best guys in the game at the position, it’s awesome. You know, I’m kind of a young guy and still have a lot of time to learn and get better.
With Molina in the big leagues for the Cardinals, has there ever been any thought at trying another position?
Not really. I went out and bought an outfielder’s glove just to, during BP you know, get some reads on some balls. When I was in Springfield I know they were thinking about playing me every now and then, maybe like once every three weeks to a month or whatever, in the outfield, but I haven’t heard anything since, so not really. Not yet.
How do you feel about your catching this season compared to past seasons? Do you feel more comfortable?
Yeah, I do. I feel a lot more comfortable. I feel a lot more confident and comfortable. There’s still a lot of things that I need to get better at, but still I feel a lot better about it. I’ve been working pretty hard at it.
You were taken in the fourth round of the draft in 2005, what were your expectations heading into the draft?
You know, people were telling me anywhere from the second round to the fifth round – maybe the third round, around there. I just wanted to play. I wanted… my dream was to play major league baseball, so I couldn’t wait.
So you never even considered college?
Yeah, I had to consider it, but once I got drafted I didn’t consider it – I was pretty set on signing. But I had a great scholarship and offer from the University of Arizona so, I mean, I was in a win-win situation.
During high school were there a lot of scouts and agents at your games?
Well, probably not as many as Colby Rasmus [laughs], but most of the games there were a few scouts and agents there and at big games where there might be another guy that was going to get drafted there were quite a few scouts at those games, so it was nice, you know, getting to play in front of all those people in high school.
So what was draft day like for you? Did you follow it online?
Yeah, I stayed home from school, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen, so I didn’t really have a bunch of people over – I just kept it with my parents and watched it online and just kind of prayed and hoped for the best. Then, once my name was called the phone went off the charts, just started ringing crazy and then the next thing I knew there was a bunch of people at the house and we were having a party.
Did you have any conversations with the Cardinals before the draft?
Not really. Actually they were one of the only teams that I didn’t really sit down with them and talk and I didn’t really go to any of their pre-draft workouts. But I played with Chuck Fick when I was like a Sophomore in high school. And he’s one of the main scouts out there. I played with him for about a year and I played against his kid and so I knew him a little bit going into it.
Did you, or do you still, look online at what people are saying about you at Baseball America or sites like ours?
Yeah, I don’t bother with that. I just go out and play. I try not to look at all that stuff and don’t worry about it. Even if it’s positive or negative or whatever, it does no real good for you, you know? It’s great for the fans and everything, but for me personally, I know what I need to do to get better and that’s just what I focus on.
What is more satisfying to you, getting a hit or throwing out a baserunner?
Throwing out a baserunner. It doesn’t really happen that often – maybe one every couple of games. It’s a great feeling, keeping them out of scoring position. I mean, if you come up with the bases loaded and you get that double that’s a great feeling to score a couple of runs, but I love throwing out guys, you know?
What was your favorite team growing up?
The Dodgers. You grew up in California. Yeah I was a Dodger fan. My Grandpa had season tickets since, ever since I was born so I watched a lot of Dodger games. Who was your guy? My guy? I had a lot, man. I liked Piazza, then they had Mondesi, Eric Karros, all those guys.
Did you play any other sports growing up?
I played a little basketball when I was a kid, but when I went to high school I just focused on baseball.
Here’s the tough questions for you: which Cardinals pitcher that you’ve caught would you least like to face?
Least like to face? I’m going to go with… I gotta go with Jaime Garcia. Yeah? Yeah, from the left side… I figured he might be one that you’d pick, but what about Chris Perez? Perez? Yeah, he’s tough. He’s tough, but I think I could get him though. [laughs] Don’t tell him I said that.
Ok, now who would you most like to face?
Most like to face? I don’t know, there all pretty good up here now, you know? Yeah, but who would you like to face just so you could have something to hold over them? [laughing] Probably Chris Perez. He’d probably be the guy I’d like to face.