Jake Anchia can definitely feel good about his inclusion in Tuesday’s South Atlantic League All-Star Game.
The catcher’s home run totals are among the best in the league and he feels his defensive prowess is really what put him over the top.
He can feel a little bit of pride in knowing which of his Power teammates are joining him — pitchers Clay Chandler, Bryan Pall and Dayeison Arias — in Tuesday’s exhibition at Appalachian Power Park. After all, the pitcher-catcher relationship is one of the strongest on any baseball team.
Anchia not only appreciates the opportunity to help Power pitchers grow in the game this early in their careers, he appreciates the help they’ve given him both in advance and example to help him become a better player.
“It’s a blessing,” he said. “It’s something you work for every year in the first half, to become an All-Star. You play your butt off, practice hard every day. It’s a cool, little accolade to put under my name.”
The 22-year-old is no stranger to accolades. A seventh-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2018, Anchia was a Division II All-American.
He finished his Nova Southeastern University career as the program’s career home run leader and was considered the top defensive catcher in Division II by Baseball America.
That defense has been his calling card in his young career. He believes that’s what has pushed him into the starting lineup and the All-Star Game.
“I feel that when I’m catching, I get along with a lot of the pitchers and that makes them perform well,” he said. “I’ve been throwing guys out, blocking baseballs, stealing strikes. All those are things all the coaches and others who voted for the All-Star Game saw. They see how all the pitchers pitch well when they throw with me.”
His nine home runs, which led the current Power roster and sat tied for 10th in the South Atlantic League entering Thursday’s games, don’t hurt either. One of those was a grand slam in the eighth inning Monday against Delmarva that gave the Power a 5-4 win. He also is second on the team with 25 RBIs.
He admits his .237 batting average can improve, and it has. He credits his power numbers with helping his growth as an overall hitter.
“When you have a lot of home runs, a lot of opponents don’t want to give up another home run to you. So they try to pitch you a certain way, they’re not going to feed you fastballs.
“So I can change my approach,” he said. “They’re going to give me a lot more off-speed pitches and breaking pitches. They’re going to try to execute a lot more pitches around the zone. I know it helps me to be more selective and be ready when I see an off-speed pitch.”
From his position, Anchia can see exactly why Chandler, Pall and Arias are joining him on the North roster when the game begins at 7:35 p.m. Tuesday. Chandler, he said, is a tough competitor with four pitches who works at a pace that the defense enjoys because it allows them to be ready when a ball gets put in play. Pall has a fastball and slider that both are working very well for him this first half. Arias speeds forward like a locomotive. Everything he throws is hard, and he has what analytics experts label an “elite spin rate.”
Anchia likens his work to an offensive line helping get a running back to 2,000 yards. But a 2,000-yard running back has a healthy chunk of talent in his own right, so both he and the pitchers benefit from the relationship. Power manager David Berg said he has seen his catcher grow from the beginning of the season.
“He’s improved since spring training in all aspects,” Berg said. “Personally, I’d like to see a little more contact with the bat. He’s shown plenty of power. I think he’s played well [defensively]. His throwing has gotten a lot better and more accurate.”
Anchia knows he’s still walking his first few steps in his baseball career and he hopes there will be plenty of seasons at higher levels after this. But it’s nice to know that the improvements he has made so early in his career are being recognized.
“It’s something telling you that the work you’ve done the past 22 years in your life is paying off,” he said. “All the missed parties, missed time with friends, all the late nights spent practicing in the back yard, it’s paying off and that’s rewarding.”