With the Derek Jeter contract soap opera looming large in the background, occupying media and fan attention, nothing major has happened during the Yankee offseason. Despite the lack of progress (as far as we know) with the Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte, or Lee contracts, Brian Cashman has moved ahead to explore some bullpen alternatives. Ken Rosenthal reported via twitter that the Yankees have signed LHP Andy Sisco and RHP Brian Anderson to minor league deals. If neither of these names ring a bell, that would not be too surprising.
Sisco is a 6’10″, hard-throwing lefty who came up with the Royals in 2005, and last pitched in the majors in 2007 with the White Sox. Sisco had Tommy John surgery in April 2008, and bounced around the Athletics’ and Giants’ minor league systems before getting released. Sisco had a strong debut season in ’05, posting a 3.11 ERA in 75 1/3 innings, striking out 76 and walking 42. Control continued to be a problem in 2006 and 2007, but his home run and hit rates spiked, and his strikeout rate dropped (to a still respectable 8 per 9 innings). In his major league career, Sisco featured a fastball that averaged around 92-93 (thrown about 75-80% of the time), and used a slider and changeup infrequently as secondary offerings. Sisco is currently pitching in Mexico with the Mexicali Aguilas, where he has reportedly been hitting 95 with the fastball. There is a reason why Sisco has not stuck with an organization despite his left-handedness, height, and velocity: he has been too hittable, and has had control problems. However, if his decreased performance could be attributed to injury (and he is healthy now), the Yanks could have their second lefty for the bullpen.
Brian Anderson is another interesting redemption project, with an intriguing back-story. Anderson was supposed to be the centerfielder of the future for the White Sox, a 1st-round pick (15th overall) out of Arizona in 2003. Despite a solid minor league career, Anderson was unable to translate his offensive success to the bigs. His mediocre offensive production (never exceeding a .328 OBP) eventually caused the White Sox to give up on him, and he was picked up by the Red Sox and then the Royals. The Royals decided that Anderson didn’t have a future in the majors as a pitcher, but were intrigued enough by his raw arm strength to try him on the mound. Despite last pitching in college (11 innings with an 8.18 ERA in 2002), Anderson was pretty successful in his first minor league stint, posting a 3.18 ERA and a 1.21 WHIP in 68 innings across 4 levels of the minors, with 52 strikeouts and 25 walks. Certainly not overwhelming success, but solid for a guy who hadn’t pitched in years. Reports of Anderson hitting 97 and sitting 95 and flashing a decent slider bode well for Anderson’s potential, though control will likely be a problem for him due to lack of experience.
Chances are that neither of these guys stick with the big league team, but both have been through enough trials and tribulations that they are worth following (along with their ability to hit mid-90′s on the gun). Anderson in particular would be the type of redemption story that saps like me can’t help but root for. Anderson and Sisco will both be interesting to watch during Spring Training as they compete for spots in the back end of the Yankee bullpen. If they struggle, they will likely wind up in the minors or released. If they succeed, however, they could wind up as important contributors to the Yankee bullpen.