Leslie Anderson – From Promise to Afterthought

By David Hill

Seemingly all offseason, there have been talks of the Rays seeking out a first base/corner outfield type, someone capable of playing between 90 to 100 games split up between the three positions. Potential free agent and/or trade targets have been discussed on the site. Shelley Duncan was signed to a minor league deal with an invitation to the Rays major league camp as a non-roster invitee, just to see if he can take that spot. However, the Rays may have had someone already within their organization who may have been able to be that player.

Leslie Anderson, the once ballyhooed Cuban star who the Rays signed to a four year contract in 2010, has become a forgotten player. Potentially envisioned as someone who may be able to help out at the major league level, Anderson has been stuck at AAA with the Durham Bulls over the past two plus years. While he struggled a bit at Durham in his first full season, Anderson showed marked improvement his second time through, raising his batting average by 32 points, improving his power numbers, and he displayed a better eye at the plate, drawing more walks while striking out less.

It appeared as though Anderson may finally get his chance in the upcoming 2013 season. Carlos Pena was a free agent, and had not played particularly well in 2012. the Rays also had possible needs in the outfield and at DH. With the possibility of finally cracking the major league lineup, Anderson headed to the Venezuelan Winter League. However, while playing for Magallenes, he put together a fairly empty .284 batting average, as he did not hit for much power (only two extra base hits, both doubles) or draw walks, problems that illustrate several of the knocks on Anderson. Yet, there was still the potential that he could get a look during Spring Training.

Then the acquisitions began. James Loney was signed, blocking a possible spot for Anderson. The Rays traded for Yunel Escobar, meaning that Ben Zobrist would go back to shuttling between the outfield and second base. Then the Rays resigned Luke Scott, taking away a possible spot at DH. Now, with the signing of Kelly Johnson, there again does not appear to be a place for Anderson in the majors. As the Rays filled out their 40 man roster, not only was Anderson left off the roster, but he did not even receive and invitation to the major league camp as a non roster invitee.

For Leslie Anderson to get a chance, he is likely going to need to perform far above expectations in Spring Training, and even then, it may not be enough. For a player that was considered an intriguing talent when he defected from Cuba, Anderson has become an afterthought.