PAWTUCKET — Nobody understands Lars Anderson’s homerless quandary more than Anderson himself. He knows that first-base prospects aren’t supposed to be stuck on zero home runs nearly five weeks into the season.
Right now, Anderson is going through a severe power drought, something that even has the cerebral sort worried. The facts do not lie, as Anderson entered Tuesday having yet to go deep in 30 games, spanning 125 at-bats.
“Yeah, there’s concern because I usually have more home runs at this point, and the position I play is important,” Anderson said while sitting at his locker stall inside the PawSox clubhouse.
For someone who a few years back was hailed as a future masher and an on-base machine, Anderson has seen his prospect status dimmed. No longer do the Red Sox view him as the long-term solution at first, or as a big thumper who can anchor the middle of the lineup.
The fact Boston went out and acquired Adrian Gonzalez in the offseason, then signed the ex-San Diego Padre to a seven-year, $154 million extension, reveals as much.
Anderson’s path to Boston may be blocked, but his current situation shouldn’t have any bearing on his lack of round-trippers. Still, one has to wonder if Anderson is ever going to realize that lofty expectations and accolades bestowed upon him, or is a .270 average with a .406 on-base percentage simply his ceiling?
Anderson remains confident that the power is coming. Such a sign appeared in the first inning, when he lofted a deep fly to center field that was caught just shy of the warning track. The 23-year-old unleashed some disappointment as he rounded first base, grabbing some air with his right fist.
“I have confidence that I’m going to start driving the ball more consistently,” Anderson proclaimed. “We had a series in Lehigh Valley [in late April] where the wind was blowing out every game, and I just didn’t put any balls in the air. The circumstances have not been advantageous [for hitting homers] as of yet.
“So far [in 2011] I’ve had a couple of 0-for-15 [spells], and other times, I’ve been en fuego. It’s been a blend of mountains and valleys, which is the way the game goes sometimes,” continued Anderson. “I want to get more of a balance in terms of consistency, which I think will happen because I think I’m a pretty consistent happen.”
Said PawSox skipper Arnie Beyeler, “He’s getting deep into counts. I tend to evaluate his at-bats a little more than just hitting home runs. He’s doing just fine.”
As Anderson noted, players never stroll to the plate thinking about hitting home runs. “That being said, you can go up there and say, ‘I’m going to get the bat head a little bit and do some damage,’” he went on. “There’s a difference between that and trying to muscle the ball out of the park, which doesn’t always work.”
Though Anderson has been hailed as a power hitter, his minor-league totals suggest otherwise. Entering the season, he’s averaged one home run every 35 plate appearances. His single-season high is 18 homers, which the California native accomplished in 2008 between Single-A Lancaster and Double-A Portland. His numbers have tailed off since that breakout season, hitting nine homers in 2009 and 15 dingers in 130 games between Portland and Pawtucket last year.
“You talk to scouts and what they see in young players is as they get older and learn about their swing a little bit more, they are then able to start turning on balls,” explained Beyeler when asked about the metamorphosis of a young slugger. “They become a little more consistent in turning on balls, how to pull balls and how to keep balls fare. Usually there’s more power and production later on down the road.”
Still, it’s worth noting that outfielder Josh Reddick, listed in the PawSox media guide as 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, has gone deep nine times this season, exactly half the amount the Georgia native slugged in 2010.
“He’s a different kind of hitter,” said Beyeler. “Reddick’s not a guy who gets deep into counts like Lars does. From a home run standpoint, Reddick drives the ball a little bit better to the opposite field. He’s hit some balls that have kind of been a little more wind friendly than Lars has.”
Listed at 6-foot-5, Anderson looks the part of a first baseman loaded with tons of intrigue. Until the power starts materializing, he will remain stuck in a holding pattern.
“It takes some time to get adjusted,” said Anderson. “With anything, you need to take some time. Going up the minor league level, you start making adjustments. There are no such things as bad experiences. In the same sense, there aren’t good experiences, just experiences. How you are able to process and look at them is what gives you something to work with.”