Trapped in the minors: Dean Anna

Dean Anna is the most underrated player in all of professional baseball.

In my last installment of “Trapped in the Minors,” I talked about Brock Bond, a ridiculously underrated on-base machine in the Giants’ system. And it’s true—Bond has yet to get a shot in the big leagues, despite being good enough to start for numerous major league teams. But Dean Anna makes Brock Bond look famous.

Before we get into just how crazy underrated this guy is, I should probably establish who, exactly, we are talking about. Eight things to know about Dean Anna:

1. He is a 26-year-old shortstop/second baseman in the Padres’ system.

2. The Padres took him in the 26th round of the 2008 draft, out of Ball State.

3. His career line in the minor leagues is .276/.380/.420.

4. He didn’t even get a shot at playing every day (in the minors) until he was 24.

5. He made the Texas League All-Star team last season.

6. Despite high on-base percentages at every level, he only reached Triple-A this year.

7. Before this season, the Oliver projection system projected him to hit .249/.328/.375 in the major leagues—basically the same as the projections for Jimmy Rollins and Marco Scutaro.

8. At this writing, he’s hitting .332/.400/.527 at Triple-A Tucson.

9. Anna was not included in John Sickels’ 2013 Prospect Book.

Let me reiterate that last point, because it’s kind of amazing. Sickels is arguably the best prospect analyst in the business. His 2013 book profiles 1,210 players, including 40 who were born in 1986 (Anna’s birth year) or earlier. So it’s not like Anna missed some sort of age cutoff—he’s just so underrated that he didn’t make it into the book.

And please don’t think I mean to pick on Sickels. I searched the Baseball America website for “Dean Anna” and got two hits—both from before the 2008 draft. Bottom line: nobody knows who this guy is—not even John Sickels or Baseball America.

The reasons why Anna has gone completely unnoticed aren’t surprising. His batting average has been between .271 and .280 every year since 2009— totally unexciting. His career high in home runs is 10. He’s not fast, doesn’t steal bases. He’s not a glamorous fielder. He’s not a big guy, and there is no one thing about his game that really stands out. Even his name—Dean William Anna—is modest and unassuming. Basically, nobody ever expected anything of Dean Anna, so nobody has paid attention even though he’s turned into a very solid player.

Anna is no defensive savant, but he gets the job done, and his combination of versatility and competence are both highly valuable and easy to underrate. He splits most of his time between shortstop and second base, but he’s also put in time at third base, the outfield corners, and first base. He’s even tried on catcher’s gear, although he has yet to get into a game behind the plate. Anna is the sort of player who will do anything you ask him to do—and he’ll do it well enough that you’ll soon forget he’s even there. He’s a picture-perfect super-utility man.

In that way, Anna is a lot like Mark DeRosa, another ultra-versatile player who put up high on-base percentages but didn’t get a real major league opportunity until his mid-20s. Like DeRosa, Anna could end up with a long career in the big leagues, assuming someone gives him a chance.

An update on Scott Van Slyke

In the first installment of “Trapped in the Minors,” I profiled Scott Van Slyke, the minor league slugger who was trapped in the Dodgers’ system. He seemed to be in the worst possible organization—the Dodgers began the season with a jam-packed outfield and Adrian Gonzalez at first base, and prospects like Yasiel Puig knocking on the door. Van Slyke needed the stars to align if he was going to get a chance in Los Angeles.

And align they did. In 34 games to start the Triple-A season, Van Slyke hit .397/.503/.733. Meanwhile, the Dodgers and their $240 million payroll floundered. On May 10, Van Slyke got the call. With the big league club, he’s hitting .296/.367/.778 with seven extra-base hits in 30 plate appearances. It’s the tiniest of samples, but it counteracts Van Slyke’s dismal 57-plate appearance debut last season, and it’s made him a key part of the Dodgers roster.

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Comments

  1. Mike Erickson said...

    According to this article, Dean Anna doesn’t hit for average (hasn’t even hit .300 in the minors for 4 years), doesn’t hit home runs (career high of 10), doesn’t steal bases, and isn’t a standout defensive player. Then why is he underrated? Because he plays wherever he’s asked? Because he walks a lot? Because he’s a nice guy?

    Come on, man. He’s a 25th man-on-a-roster type guy at BEST. Prospect? Doesn’t look like one to me. THAT’s why he was left off a list of 2013 propects – he’s NOT one.

  2. John Kochurov said...

    Mike: You just listed all of the reasons why Dean Anna is not considered a prospect. And that’s fair—he’s not some sort of superstar-in-waiting, or whatever. But the man has a .380 OBP, he can play anywhere, and one of the leading projection systems viewed him as roughly a .700 OPS-guy in the major leagues.

    And I didn’t mean to suggest that Anna is actually a “prospect” as the term is commonly used. But Sickels’ book profiled over 1,000 minor league players, including dozens of guys who are older than Anna and plenty more who probably will never justify a major league roster spot. Again, I’m not saying Anna even belongs in an MLB starting lineup, but he’s exactly the sort of super-utility guy that almost every team needs.

    I mean, just for example, look at the Dodgers’ current 25-man roster. Three catchers (including a washed up Ramon Hernandez), Luis Cruz (can’t hit), Nick Punto, Jerry Hairston, Skip Schumacher, and Juan Uribe. That’s a team that could desperately use a guy like Anna—and there are plenty more. He’s not just “a 25th man-on-a-roster type guy at BEST.”

    • Pablo Galarza said...

      John K,

      After Dean Anna got traded to the Yankees, I immediately began researching his stats in the minor leagues. At first I was just happy we got something back in return that would give our minor league depth. But after seriously analysis his numbers and taking a look at some of his clips, I saw lots of potential and excitement in the way he plays the game. What stands out to me is his steady OBP and his decent batting average plus his walk rate is really good, which tells me he has a good eye and discipline at the plate. His speed is below average and would make an excellent 9th hitter. Anna at this point seems like a super utility player whom the fans would love to cheer for. The more I see his video clips the more I think Cashman got a steal with Anna. I will cheer for Dean Anna and if he has a great spring training and is able to make the 25 man roster, then John I will tip my cap to you in your excellent research and prediction. Go Yankees 2014!

  3. Mike Erickson said...

    John: Point well taken. Some of the players up there with teams like the Astros and Marlins hardly qualify as “major leaguers”, and could easily be replaced by like Anna. Very true.

    Speaking of Punto as you did, how in the hell is he batting over 300? I saw him all year with the Red Sox and he couldn’t hit his way out of a paper bag. Guess for the same fluky reason Casey Kotchman hit .306 one year when he averaged 220 for the 2 years prior and 1 year after …

  4. Roy in Omaha said...

    Even though he has played a bit in the big leagues, Johnny Giavotella (age 25) has a minor league resume that blows away that of Anna’s in terms of accomplishments and his numbers are a tad better than Anna’s as well. Giavotella’s minor league resume is right up there with that of any prospect in Royals franchise history (again, I am talking personal and team accomplishments in addition to his overall numbers).

    All Star at every stop in the Royals system. A starter in the AAA All Star game. A two time candidate for PCL Player of the Year. PCL Player of the Month 3 times. Many PCL Player of the Week awards. Numerous Storm Chasers Player of the Month awards over the past two seasons (both are seasons in which they won championships). Royals Minor League Player of the Year in 2011. Significant contributions to championship teams.

    I mean, what do the Royals want?

  5. KJOK said...

    I’ve seen both of these guys play.  They are not really brutal defenders, but at the major league level they would be considered ‘marginal’ second basemen.  And that’s their problem – what do you do with a guy that’s only marginal at 2B (not enough arm for SS, 3B, or RF)?  Putting them at 1B or LF? No, they don’t hit enough for that even with good OBP.  So unless they can cover CF (and neither of these guys are fast enough I don’t think) then they are just very limited, even though they can theoretically back up multiple positions.

  6. Leo Walter said...

    KJOK : Actually,I have seen both play also,though it was a while ago that I saw Negrych play a lot in AA. I have to tell you,unless he has improved a great deal,he was closer to brutal than to average. DeJesus I only mentioned because it seeems to me he has really eceived his best chance to play in MLB,even though he is a decent second baseman and won’t embarass himself at SS,though his range isn’t what it needs to be at the ML level.

  7. SLZ said...

    Looking at these comments and career fielding percentages of Anna not sure where “marginal” defender comes from. It is unfortunate that there are probably many guys just like him trapped in a system. He did not cost the Padres a lot of money at a 26th round pick so they have nothing to lose.  He is too good to release, hopefully he can stay healthy so he can get his shot somewhere if not with the Padres another team.

  8. John Kochurov said...

    Even if Anna isn’t a great defender—and honestly, I don’t know enough about his defense to say one way or the other—he’s played regularly at both shortstop and second base in the minors, and he’s got experience at the infield corners and in the outfield. In this age of expanded bullpens, a bench player like that is very good to have around. No, you don’t necessarily want him starting every day at short or something, but that kind of versatility, when combined with a decent OBP, is worth a roster spot.

    I think the DeRosa comp is pretty reasonable. Skip Schumacher is similar, too, although Schumacher can’t play shortstop.

    The point of this whole “Trapped in the Minors” series isn’t to suggest that any of these guys is going to be a star—just that they’re major league players, and are essentially available for free.

    • Teri said...

      Love reading this on the night the NEW YORK YANKEES announced that Dean secured a spot on their roster!!!! Way to go Dean! Nice article John.

  9. KJOK said...

    John:

    Just to be clear I was responding to Krog about fielding and WHY guys like Anna and Giavotella get trapped.  Otherwise I think the Trapped in the Minors series is great, and certainly Anna could at least be an “Aaron Miles” with fewer hits but more walks.  Giavotella is probably a little more like DeRosa.

  10. Krog said...

    Without any actual knowledge, I imagine that guys like Giovotella and Anna are brutal defenders. If you hit like an average shortstop but play defense like a left fielder, there aren’t going to be many opportunities for you on a big league club.

  11. slz said...

    Anna is now batting .346 june 7 2013

    Great series glad you give these guys press  

    YOU JUST CANNOT PREDICT WHAT A PLAYER CAN DO BASED ON HIS DRAFT ORDEr

    Look how many 1 thru 5 rounders never make it toAAA

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