Rick Ankiel has one of the more fascinating stories in Major League Baseball history with his transition from fireballing phenom to a guy who couldn’t throw strikes to an everyday position player.
June 23, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Washington Nationals center fielder Rick Ankiel (24) doubles in the ninth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Nationals defeated the Orioles 3 – 1. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
Ankiel was in his second season with the Nationals in 2012 and was mainly used as a stopgap before Bryce Harper was recalled along with Xavier Nady. Ankiel was designated for assignment and subsequently released in July when the club needed a spot on the roster for Drew Storen.
2012 Projection (ZiPS): .231/.293/.386, 11 HR, 26 RBI, 114 games (355 AB)
2012 Actual: .228/.282/.411, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 68 games (158 AB)
Although Ankiel started the season as a starter in the outfield. When Harper was recalled, he replaced Jayson Werth for the most part but was relegated to the bench when Mike Morse returned from his injury. As it turns out, Ankiel only started five games between June 1 and his release on July 19.
Ankiel was given opportunity to bounce back from lackluster numbers in his last few seasons, but was not able to and was easy to replace. His power numbers dissipated and he had trouble just getting on base. It was evident he was a fourth outfielder on a good team and nothing more at this point. The Nationals already having a lot of depth at the outfield position, had more use for guys like Tyler Moore and Roger Bernadina and most teams would have them over Ankiel.
Unlike Nady, Ankiel was not picked up by another team and will enter the offseason as a free-agent. I expect him to be picked up on a minor league deal with an invitation to Spring Training by a team giving him one last shot to fill out a bench. He is no longer a starter but has experience holding down positions in short term situations either for an injury or until a prospect is ready for a call-up.
Season Highlight: There were RBI base hits and homeruns, but this was by far the most memorable highlight from Ankiel’s 2012 season. Throwing a strike from 60 feet, 6 inches? Can’t do it. Throwing a strike from the middle of center field? No problem.