Tuesday, April 1, 2014

¿Quien Es Leslie Anderson?

Photo Credit
Japanese Baseball Cards
Every year I try to keep an eye on the Latino players that play abroad in the Asian baseball leagues. This year a former Tampa Bay Rays farmhand and former Cuban National Team player Leslie Anderson (Stephes) caught my eye.

During the opening game between the Hanshin Tigers and the Yomiuri Giants, Leslie Anderson hit back-to-back homeruns with Jose Lopez against Tigers reliever Naoto Tsuru. Annoucer Ed Cohen stated that Anderson was a member of the Cuban National Team that represented Cuba in the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classic. In the 2006 World Baseball Classic tournament, Anderson went 0-5 with 1 strikeout. In the 2009 World Baseball Classic he performed better going 2-9 with 1 double and 3 strikeouts.

After defecting from Cuba to Mexico in 2009, Anderson would end up signing a four-year, $1.725 million contract with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2010.

Though it seems that Anderson was productive in the minors for Tampa, especially at AAA Durham, he never seemed to be able to catch the break of a call-up. This is where I'm a little confused. Tampa Bay is an amazing organization when it comes to evaluating talent. So looking at Anderson's minor league numbers, it seems that he performed decently enough to at least get a September call-up. Especially at the first base position that has seemed to be a revolving door for the Rays in recent years. Here are Anderson's offensive statistics courtesy of BaseballCube.com:

Anderson shows improvement on a yearly basis especially in AAA when his batting average rises from .277 in 2011 to .309 in 2012. Though it drops from .309 to .292 in 2013, his plate discipline improves in the form of walks. In 2013 he waked 50 times while in 2011 and 2012 combined, he walked 57 times. He remained consistent in the form of strikeouts and was steady in terms of his offensive production especially in the form of doubles and homeruns. Looking at his defensive statistics, you can see that he played first and all three outfield positions and in three seasons playing the majority at time at first he had 10 errors from 2011-2013. That doesn't seem to be too much of a negative issue.

In searching online, I found an article by Cork Gaines entitled Tailgating With The Rays: Why Didn’t The Rays Call Up Leslie Anderson Or Henry Wrigley? from the Rays Index website dated August 31, 2012 that stated the following concerning Anderson:
Leslie Anderson is 3rd in hitting in the IL, and Henry Wrigley would be in the top 15 if he had enough at bats. Clearly the Rays need offense and both can DH or play 1B. So why weren’t they called up along with Reid Brignac and the others?
The simple answer is that they are not on the 40-man roster. But MLB transaction rules are like the tax code, so let me try to explain. For those not familiar: teams have a 25-man roster (the guys we see every night) and a 40-man roster (the 25-man roster plus 15 others that are usually minor leaguers). To be in the big leagues, you have to be on the 40-man roster. There can be up to 15 guys in the minors on the 40-man roster and these guys are kinda like backups. So if somebody on the Rays gets hurt, one of those would be called up to take his place. And in September, anybody on the 40-man can be called up.
Anybody in the minors can be added to the 40-man roster. BUT, if there is already 40 guys, somebody must be taken off. And to do that, that player must be placed on waivers. This is where it gets complicated for guys like Anderson and Wrigley who are not on the 40-man roster. Calling up guys like Brignac is easy. He is already on the 40-man roster, so in September, just promote him. But for Anderson or Wrigley, the Rays would have to risk losing a player to waivers. So it is more like making a trade. And the Rays hate losing pieces if they don’t have to. So at this point, it looks like the Rays have decided that there is nobody already on the 40-man roster that is worth losing for what might end up being 50 at bats from either Anderson or Wrigley. Is that the right decision? I don’t know. But that does appear to be the decision they have made…A NUMBERS GAME AND THEY LOST
I understand that placing a player on waivers, losing them and having the call-up not perform can be a tremendous blow to an organization with limited financial resources like the Rays. But that really sucks for a prospect to feel as if they are performing adequately and won't ever get the chance at the big leagues. But so is the life of a minor league baseball player. Regardless, the Rays granted Anderson his release after the 2013 season so that he could pursue career options abroad.

On December 28, 2013, the Yakyubaka.com website posted that: 
The Yomiuri Giants announced that they finalized a deal with Leslie Anderson (31).  He has been assigned the number forty-two.  He is scheduled to arrive in Japan in late-January...According to Nikkan Sports, the two sides agreed to a one-year deal worth an estimated total sixty million yen.   
Hopefully Anderson can find success in Japan that he couldn't seem to find here in the minors. I'll look back at him a few months from now.

Until Then Play Ball
Baseball Sisco
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