Evaluations from both inside and outside the organization pegged Anderson as one of the better arms in a deep system. One scout from another club saw Anderson's fastball reach 97 mph and sit in the mid 90s with decent command. Internal scouting reports grouped Anderson as one of the better arms in a deep system, said Joe Jordan, the team's director of player development.
"Some guys," Jordan said, "have him as our best guy."
Not until the Phillies protected Anderson from the Rule 5 draft did the 6-foot-3 righthander understand his place.
"Just hearing that, it caught me by surprise," Anderson said. "I had no idea what my potential was."
Anderson, who turns 23 in March, is far enough from the majors to render any projection volatile. Bad things can happen to young pitching prospects, especially young pitching prospects with a history of arm trouble. But the arduous recovery from Tommy John surgery can force a man to reevaluate everything; Anderson said he matured mentally and physically during the process.
The results, albeit in a brief period, showed. He posted a 2.70 ERA in those 70 innings (15 starts) with 78 strikeouts and 22 walks across single-A Lakewood and Clearwater. He improved as he distanced himself from the surgery and climbed levels.
Scouts from other organizations noticed and put Anderson on a short list of possible Rule 5 draftees. The Phillies were well aware; Jordan said the debate on whether to protect Anderson was nonexistent.
Anderson, a 21st-round pick in 2012 from Galena (Nev.) High School, was regarded as a decent control pitcher before the surgery. He hurt his elbow in June 2014, and the Phillies attempted to fix it with conservative treatment. He came to spring training the next year, felt more pain in his elbow, and knew what was next. Anderson underwent Tommy John surgery on April 2, 2015 — "I remember it because I didn't want it on April Fool's Day," he said — and entered the solitary life of a rehabbing pitcher.
Barred from throwing, he gained strength elsewhere.
"I think I did legs every single day," Anderson said. "I was squatting a lot. I'm outside all the time, hiking and mountain climbing. My legs are real strong."
Anderson lives in Reno, Nev., and Lake Tahoe is a 30-minute drive. That is where he sometimes found refuge. But most of his rehab time was spent in Clearwater, at the Phillies' training complex, under the watchful eyes of team athletic trainers.
The surgery, Anderson said, provided some needed motivation. The odds of achieving his ultimate goal were longer. He embraced the grind of rehab, the 6 a.m. alarms for monotonous workouts.
"I think they noticed that," Anderson said.
He spent some of his free time watching baseball. "I started evaluating myself," Anderson said. "I watched pitchers. I watched batters. I learned the game, more than just learning pitching." The pitcher he liked to analyze most was Jacob deGrom, the young Mets' pitching star, a Tommy John survivor himself.
Anderson lived in the low 90s before his surgery; better conditioning and improved lower-body strength helped him add velocity in 2016. He is likely ticketed for a return appearance at single-A Clearwater in 2017, with a chance to crack double-A Reading and the crowded rotation depth chart the Phillies have in their upper minors.
"I'm excited to see what big-league camp is about," Anderson said.