Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has made it clear that he will not be pursuing Stephen Drew this offseason, which comes as a surprise given the team’s uninspiring infield depth chart — which only looks worse if you take Alex Rodriguez out of the mix. In replacing Robinson Cano, the Yankees have seemingly prioritized quantity over quality, having brought in bargain-bin free agents Brendan Ryan, Kelly Johnson, and Brian Roberts. And then there’s Dean Anna — a 27-year-old career minor leaguer who was plucked from the Padres back in November without much fanfare. If there’s one infielder on the Yankees’ 40-man roster you’ve never heard of, I’d be willing to bet it’s Anna. But despite his lack of fame and experience, he has some things going for him and could make an impact as soon as opening day.
Anna was originally drafted by San Diego in the 26th round back in 2008 and has hit well during his time in the minors, holding a .286/.386/.428 slash line in over 2,000 plate appearances. He performed particularly well in 2013, having hit .331/.410/.482 in his first crack at Triple-A. Granted, that was in the Pacific Coast League — which is known for inflating offensive numbers — and by no means do strong minor league numbers guarantee big league success; but it’s hard to ignore a .400 wOBA from a middle infielder. The various projection systems are somewhat buying Anna’s 2013. ZiPS, Oliver, and Steamer all project him for something along the lines of a 90 wRC+, good for around 2 WAR over a full season.
In the field, Anna’s not supposed to be anything special, but seems capable of holding his own at shortstop, which already makes him one of the better defensive players in the majors — the Yankees’ best defensive infielder not named Brendan Ryan. Anna played at least 60 games at both second base and shortstop last year and has experience at the infield corners and in the outfield. That type of versatility could make him useful as a role-player.
Another one of Anna’s perks is that he bats left handed, which is somewhat rare for a non-1B infielder. Although the Yankees offense projects to be a little lefty heavy, most of their infielders bat right handed, with the exception being Kelly Johnson who has historically performed better against lefties. Given the Yankees’ roster, Anna would have no shortage of possible platoon partners. For what it’s worth, Anna punished right-handed pitching to the tune of .345/.422/.508 in 2013.
If all goes according to plan, Anna will probably start the season in triple-A in favor of some of the team’s more experienced infielders, but Anna will get a look at some point in 2014. Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, and Brian Roberts have had more than their share of injury problems in recent years; and frankly, even a half season out of either is far from guaranteed. If and when an infielder hits the DL — or the Yankees finally give up on Eduardo Nunez — Dean Anna will be just a phone call away, and it will be interesting to see if he can build on his minor-league success and become a useful piece for the Yankees.
This article was originally written for Pinstripe Alley.