The player of the year award is about who had the best season; not who may or may not eventually become the best player, but who earned it on the field in 2013.
We chose Dean Anna, a 26th-round draft choice out of Ball State University in Indiana, a school better known as David Letterman’s alma mater than for producing baseball players.
“It’s a great honor to win and I really appreciate the recognition,” the 26-year-old Anna said from the Dominican Republic where he said he has been working on “everything” for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Winter League.
In the Tucson Padres’ final season, the left-handed hitting Anna led the Pacific Coast League with a .331 batting average, ranked second with 38 doubles and fourth in on-base percentage, at .410.
Unlike 2012, when he saw significant time at five different positions, he spent most of this season toggling between second base and shortstop where he made only 11 errors in 132 games.
More than anyone else in the organization, Anna is a case study in perseverance. He didn’t really get a chance to play every day until last year, when an injury to Jonathan Galvez opened up a spot for him at second base in Double-A San Antonio. With the Missions he hit .305/.429/.431 in the first half but faded to .241/.330/.360 in the second.
“The reason why I didn’t wear down this year is because I learned from last year what I did wrong,” said Anna on his improvement this season.
“This had only been my second full season of really playing every day, and the big thing was knowing my body and when to hit extra, and when to rest.”
“When I wore down, I was hitting way too much before the game every day. Then when the game got there I was dog tired. So I really knew how to pace myself this year.”
This year Dean, despite playing all of his games in the middle of infield in the Arizona heat, he didn’t fade in the second half hitting .325/.398/.414.
“Another thing that really helped me was having Tom Tornincasa as my hitting coach again because he saw when I wore down as well. He would remind me about how it happened and why.”
Even with his strong 2013 season and experience at every infield position, he didn’t get the call to the big leagues when Everth Cabrera was suspended for the rest of the season. Instead, the club elected to sign journeyman Ronny Cedeno to fill their gap at shortstop.
“It was a little bit frustrating to me about not being called up,” Anna admitted. “But pouting about it was also not going to help me to get where I want to go.”
“I just have to keep putting in the work and getting better every day because, hopefully I will get a chance to play in the big leagues next year.”
If there is any justice in the universe, that statement will come true.