Will Dean Anna’s PCL dominance translate to the majors?

Back in October, the Yankees acquired 27-year-old infielder Dean Anna from the Padres for minor-league pitcher Ben Paulus. I looked into Anna earlier this winter, but here’s Anna in a nutshell: He posted an impressive .331/.410/.482 line in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last year, but hasn’t even a single day of big-league service time to his name. Yet, considering the current state of the Yankees infield, it’s looking like Anna might have a shot at breaking camp with the Bombers. At the very least, he’ll be a phone call away in triple-A Scranton, anticipating Brian Roberts‘ annual trip to the DL.

There are two general schools of thought on Anna. On the one hand, the dude’s raked in the minors. He also happens to play second base, third base and shortstop, which happen to be areas of need for the Yankees. On the other hand, he’s entirely untested at the major league level. Not only did his 2013 happen in the minors, but it happened in the PCL. We’ve seen quite a few players tear up the PCL in recent years only to turn into pumpkins when they got to the show – Brandon Wood, Kila Ka’aihue, Brandon Allen, and J.P. Arencibia are some of the more well-known examples of this phenomenon. Anna’s also not particularly young. At 27 years old, many would argue that if he really had what it took to be a productive big leaguer, he would have gotten a shot by now.

To get an idea of wether or not Anna will be anything more than replacement-level fodder, I looked recent examples of players like Anna. Last year, Anna posted a 140 wRC+ and his BB%, K%, and ISO were 196%, 71%, and 106% of the MLB average, respectively. I looked for seasons where a player in the PCL had a wRC+ between 120 and 160 and who’s other stats were within one standard deviation of what Anna’s were relative to MLB average this year. This worked out to roughly:

BB%: 13%-20%

K%: 8%-18%

ISO: .100-.220

Here’s that list along with their stats for the following year:

Anna 1

Roughly half of these players never got into a game the following year and those that did failed to impress in limited playing time. Ka’Aihue, Chris Carter, Jake Elmore, and Brendan Harris all got small opportunities to capitalize on their big years, but were all disappointments. The one shining star here is Matt Carpenter, who had a pretty productive 340 PA’s in 2012. His star shines even more brightly when we look at how these players have fared since their dominant PCL seasons.

Anna 2

Carpenter had a much better minor-league track record than Anna, but it’s still reassuring to see a star player on this list. Other than Carpenter, though, there isn’t much to get excited about. He’s literally the only player out of the nine to have been above replacement level. The book’s not closed on Elmore and Michael Taylor, but their 2013 seasons certainly didn’t live up to their 2012 PCL dominance. However, it should be noted that Ka’Aihue and Carter weren’t terrible at the plate, but their defensive limitations erased their value. If they had posted those same ~90 wRC+ batting lines while (adequately) playing, say second base, they would have been fairly decent players. For what it’s worth, the various projection systems peg Anna for about 90 wRC+ in 2014, which would make him roughly a 2 win player over a full season, although, I’m not sure how much faith I’m willing to put into those projections.

In sum, it’s pretty clear that a season like Anna’s 2013 hardly ever translates to even an average performance in the majors — but in Anna’s case it doesn’t really have to. Even if he only hits .260/.330/.370, that might make him better than both Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts. More likely than not, though, he’s just a backup infielder — better than Eduardo Nunez, but not worthy of an everyday job, even in the Yankees’ mediocre infield.

About Chris

Chris works in economic development by day, but spends most of his nights thinking about baseball. He writes for Pinstripe Pundits, and is an occasional user of the twitter machine: @_chris_mitchell
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