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Why Dean Anna Has Not Been Called Up

A name on the lips of many who follow Padres minor leaguers is Tucson Padres INF Dean Anna.

Kino Stadium, the home this year of 2013 PCL Batting Champion Dean Anna.
Kino Stadium, the home this year of 2013 PCL Batting Champion Dean Anna.
Christian Petersen

For those not familiar with Dean Anna he was the Padres' 26th round pick in 2008, he's 26 years old, an infielder with experience at 2B, 3B and SS and was the 2013 Pacific Coast League Batting Champion. The last two facts are what has been getting him the most attention recently. The Padres are currently playing veteran mercenary Ronnie Cedeno at SS and also had to deal with Chase Headley recently being sidelined with back issues. Dean Anna would seem like a logical minor leaguer to come in and provide relief for one of those two issues.

However, the first thing to know about Dean Anna is he is not considered much of a major league prospect. Allow me to borrow from John Kochuro's Hardball Times feature Trapped in the minors: Dean Anna:

(John) 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.

I'd disagree with that last point. It is not that they do not know who he is. They know. They talk to scouts including, I assume, Padres scouts who evaluate their own minor league system. There just is not a lot of buzz about Anna becoming a successful major leaguer. Especially because he is already 26 years, which is old for a prospect who is experiencing his first real breakout. At his age, that breakout is probably just a career year not a sign of things to come. Does that mean if he were given a chance he is guaranteed to fail? No, of course not. But, it is certainly a strike against him when considering all the factors.

So, what other factors are there? The main one is the 40 man roster. The Padres just used up the last available slot on that roster by adding Tommy Medica to it. Medica was about to become Rule 5 draft eligible in the offseason. Last year the Padres lost now Oakland Athletic Nate Freiman by exposing him to the draft. They did not want to take the same risk with Medica and in order to protect a player who has been in the minors as long as Medica has the team has to put him on the 40 man roster. They will later have to do the same for Keyvius Sampson. Anna, on the other hand, has been Rule 5 eligible the last two seasons and no team has selected him. So it is not just the Padres that are not willing to take a chance on him.

The other deadline that looms with minor leaguers is the free agent deadline. Seven years after they are drafted they can enter free agency. Since Anna was drafted in 2008, he will not be eligible until after the 2014 season. So assuming that once again he is passed over in the rule 5 draft, he will still be a Padres minor leaguer for another year where he can prove himself.

Getting back to the 40 man roster, maybe you figure someone on there is expendable and the Padres should just open up a spot (A Ronnie Cedeno DFA would be an option with Anna getting his starts at SS) and give this guy a chance. Well, that works for this season but there are future ramifications. Currently being hidden from the 40 man roster are players the team has put on the 60 day DL. All those guys with major injuries who will not be free agents next year (Casey Kelly, Cory Luebke, Clayton Richard, Joe Wieland, Yasmani Grandal) will need to go back on the 40 man roster after the season ends. That is already going to require releasing a few players since by my count 44 players will be on that roster plus, as I mentioned before, Sampson. There are a few easy candidates to release from those 44/45, but the last couple get hard. Adding Dean Anna only further complicates that.

All that being said, there is nothing here that definitely says that Anna should not be given a shot. It just illustrates the complexities and the risks and rewards of the scenario. The upside here is that Anna is a utility infielder with a useful bat and the downside is that he is a PCL career year mirage. Either way (or somewhere in between) it costs you the release of someone on the fringe of the 40 man roster this offseason (perhaps even Anna himself if his trial is an absolute failure). If the team were in contention, then perhaps you take the risk to try to increase your pennant chances much like the Padres did with Brian Myrow in 2007 when they were desperate. However, that is not the Padres' current situation. They need to keep around as much talent as they can so as to prepare for some future year where they are in contention.  In the end though, the risks versus rewards of the whole thing are all pretty small potatoes. Nobody should be calling foul over whether or not he gets a chance in the majors this season.