Don't Overlook Dean Anna

The Yankees look like a team that needs an impact infielder, but with the roster starting to fill in with low-risk/low-reward (or medium-reward) players like Brian Roberts, it looks like they're trying to piece together an infield. Kelly Johnson and Roberts are two players that should make the major league team, both of which could win second base jobs. Mark Reynolds' name has appeared in the rumors for third base, but after the 2013 season, it's hard to imagine the Yankees believe in him as a full-time starter. One of the most overlooked names on the roster is Dean Anna, who has the potential to play anywhere in the infield with some debatable upside. First off, Anna is primarily a middle infielder with a good amount of experience at both second base and shortstop. He has a few games played at third base, as well as the corner outfield positions. He also has some experience at first base, and in a pinch, he could certainly fake it in the major leagues.

Offensively, Anna went largely unnoticed over the last few years due to a mediocre batting average and lack of power. But the super utility player does a great job of taking walks and avoiding strikeouts, and over his career he has an incredible 277 walks and 294 strikeouts. Yet before 2013, Anna played in some difficult ballparks.

In 2012, when he hit .271/.377/.393 in his second full time season, Anna dealt with Nelson W. Wolff Municipal Stadium. StatCorner gave this ballpark a 74 home run rate for left-handed hitters (with 100 being average), and an 87 for overall runs for lefties. The home and away splits are daunting, as Anna OPS'd just .682 at home, while putting up an .842 OPS on the road. The weighted OBA gave him a .358 for the 2012 season.

In 2013, Anna saw a breakout season in a much friendlier environment in the Pacific Coast League and Tucson Padres Baseball Club. StatCorner gave this stadium a 94 home run factor for lefties, and a 110 run factor. The weighted OBA went up to an impressive .394, and Anna finished the season with a .331/.410/.482 slash.

But Anna is relatively old for his level, which has him teetering on prospect status, and that's one of the major reasons the Yankees were able to acquire him from the Padres. Anna has only played in three full seasons now, and it's hard to tell exactly what his offensive upside looks like in the major leagues. Other stats feel the same, as Oliver has him hitting just .236/.317/.336, Steamer at .263/.334/.379, and ZiPS at .240/.321/.356.

For what it's worth, Anna showed some incredible offensive potential in a very hitter friendly environment in 2013. He'll again face a hitter friendly environment when his left-handed swing is transplanted into the AL East and Yankee Stadium. The biggest question about Anna is whether or not his .361 BABIP from Triple-A will hold up in the major leagues. If Anna can get on base while limiting his strikeout rates, as he did his entire minor league career, he has the potential to post a respectable average and on base percentage. Unfortunately, it's extremely unlikely that his power will ever develop.

In the ZiPS projections article from FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli had this to say about Anna,

Years from now, the 2013-14 offseason won’t be remembered as the one in which Robinson Cano signed a giant contract with the Seattle Mariners or in which Masahiro Tanaka either did or didn’t notably arrive stateside. Rather, it will be remembered for how the Yankees acquired, via trade, superstar Dean Anna for almost nothing — or, if not superstar Dean Anna, then at least generally competent Dean Anna. A member of the Padres organization for the duration of his professional career, Anna is projected to record a WAR at least four times higher than either of the players currently expected to start at shortstop or second base for the Yankees. “A revelation,” is how he’ll be described in newspaper articles and private diaries at some point in the not-distant future.

It looks like a somewhat sarcastic take on the lack of high-upside middle infield depth, but this ZiPS projection does seem to like Anna as a potential everyday player.

Make of the numbers and projections what you will, as I find it hard to judge minor league performances unless I see actual scouting reports. Unfortunately, there aren't many reports on 27 year old utility players. He's not going to replace Robinson Cano, but he's a good pickup for a team with little infield depth. And yet somehow, it would seem from the consensus that Anna has Omar Infante-type upside if everything goes perfectly, which makes him a player to watch for at least the beginning of Spring Training.