The San Diego Padres have twenty-five players on the major league roster.
Twenty-five and maybe, just maybe, every year there are two or three openings that may pop up. Here is the problem; over one hundred and fifty players, albeit in different stages of development, are within the organization’s minor leagues so the odds are not great at making it to Petco Park.
So you can imagine the chances for someone that is drafted in the twenty-sixth round of the 2008 amateur draft as an undersized middle infielder from the baseball powerhouse of Ball State, a school best known for being the alma mater of David Letterman, let’s just say you shouldn’t be ordering any baseball cards anytime soon.
“In this game all you need is one chance and hopefully you do well. I was just happy to get drafted and be given the shot to chase my dream,” said Dean Anna, 26, the shortstop on the AAA Tucson Padres who has been one of the batting leaders in the Pacific Coast League all season.
Additionally, Anna was one of three Tucson Padres, along with catcher Rene Rivera and left-handed relief pitcher Colt Hynes, named to the Pacific Coast League AAA all-star game in in Reno.
While everyone loves the story of the late round draft pick rising to the top, Anna’s story is especially interesting because he had to wait a few years of his career to get his opportunity.
For his first three years in the organization Anna had to hunt for playing time at anywhere in the field as more heralded prospects were given the everyday roles. As a late round pick it was Dean’s job to not only hit but be able to play a multitude of positions for a chance to get in the line-up.
“When I did get in I had to show them that I could play on command and that is what has been bringing me up through the organization.
“I believe I’ve showed that I can play when given a chance. I will be prepared and ready to go.”
Last year in San Antonio, Anna finally got a chance to be in the lineup every day with an injury to second baseman Jonathan Galvez. John Gibbons, Anna’s manager last year in AA San Antonio and currently the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays, gave him a chance.
“I heard he was a utility type player but he is better than that,” Gibbons said last year on his initial impressions of Anna.
“He gives you really good at-bats and he can really hit. Dean does everything a table-setter does and you can play him anywhere.”
Before slumping in August, Anna was one of the leaders in on-base percentage in the Texas League, despite playing his home games in Nelson Wolff Stadium, arguably one of the toughest hitting environments in the minor leagues.
This season, Anna has been in the lineup everyday either at second or shortstop and is easily having his best year where he is not only hitting for average but also for power with 36 extra-base hits and a .429 on-base percentage coming into July.
“I think I’ve just gotten better at recognizing pitches,” Anna said in a phone interview from Sacramento.
“You know I’m not the biggest guy in the world and for me staying within my hitting zone have really helped me out. I am physically stronger but the biggest thing about hitting for more power is the mental aspect of recognizing what pitches you can drive.”
In addition to his batting average, Anna has been among the leaders in the PCL in hits, on-base percentage and doubles. Throw in the fact that despite seeing time at third, second and shortstop in June, he didn’t have a single error. But his favorite position remains shortstop, which he grew up playing.
“My biggest goal is to always make the routine play, that is what helps your team win games,” Anna said on his defensive goals.
“I like making the great play as much as anyone else but when your pitcher and teammates know you are dependable, that is what you shoot for.”
Are there questions about his game?
He’s a left-handed hitter that has never hit left-handed pitching particularly well, there are some questions about his foot speed and he is going to be twenty-seven in November.
While all of those are true, he’s also hitting been hitting around .350 for most of the year and can be inserted into about any place on the field.
And when you have come as far as Dean Anna has, you learn to take advantage of your time on the field as opposed to worrying about others opinions.
“This is only the second year I’ve gotten to play every day so right now I’m just grateful for the opportunity to show people what I can do.”