Royals Sign Ankiel

Dayton Moore’s run of transactions since taking over as Royals GM has been so bad that the natural reaction to any Kansas City move now is scorn and derision. So, not surprisingly, when it came out last night that they had signed Rick Ankiel to a one-year contract, there were critics who immediately pointed to the career .311 on base percentage and laughed. I think this is a good deal for the Royals, though, and Moore should get credit for making his team better.

Ankiel’s story is well known, so we’ll skip the whole pitcher-turning-into-a-hitter aspect and just focus on the last few years. As an outfielder, he’s displayed a couple of strong skills – serious power, above average range, and of course, a strong throwing arm. He’s rough around the edges (most obviously with pitch recognition), which is to be expected from a guy who spent most of his life training to pitch instead of hit, but the strengths outweighed the weaknesses.

In 2007, he posted a .364 wOBA, then followed it up with a .360 wOBA in 2008. The power dwarfed the relative lack of walks, and he was a well above average hitter. Last year was a disaster, certainly – the power dried up and his wOBA fell to .288, acceptable only for a middle infielder or a catcher. But injured players don’t often play well, and Ankiel was clearly at less than 100 percent for most of the season.

Projecting guys coming off of injuries is always harder. You don’t know to what extent their performance suffered due to the injury, so you have to give that season less weight than you usually would, even though it is the most recent data point. For Ankiel, I think realistically, we can expect him to post a .350ish wOBA if he’s healthy, even though the projection systems will spit out a lower number than that.

For $3 milllion, that’s a good piece. And unlike last year’s splurge on a veteran power hitter, Ankiel actually fills a hole for Kansas City. They simply didn’t have a right fielder before this move, so Ankiel is not blocking off any other talented players. He simply makes their team better, and does so at a low cost.

Dayton Moore has made a lot of bad moves, but this is not one of them. He made his team better without spending significant resources to do so. Kudos to him for a nice signing.




Print This Post



Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


80 Responses to “Royals Sign Ankiel”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Matt S. says:

    I guess this is the broken clock moment of this aweful off-season for Moore. Does this mean the Contest is off?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Joe R says:

    Dave Cameron writing a post showing applause for a GMDM move?

    Is it 12/21/2012 already?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. ewanbrown says:

    So if Ankiel is the RF where does Jose Guillen fit in? And where does that leave Kila Ka’aihue?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • geo says:

      With any luck, where Jose Guillen fits in is on the “unconditional release” list. It’s a sunk cost anyway. Just get rid of the guy.

      Now THAT move would definitely improve the Royals.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Joe R says:

        Considering he’s projected as replacement level (or lower) if he does play, then getting rid of him would indeed help the team more than just playing him.

        Though I think given how much he actually costs, the Royals would be smart to keep him, hope he gets hot, and hope some poorly run team w/ a hole to fill decides to give something up for 3-4 months of Guillen.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • joser says:

        Doesn’t Guillen bring “fire” or “veteran presence” or some other hackneyed idea that the Royals / their fans / folks following baseball have bought into? At the very least he might provide a distraction in what is likely to be another long summer in KC.

        (FWIW, and setting aside stats for a moment, Guillen would seem to be a decent guy despite his rep.)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • BX says:

        Yeap. Release him and Yuni,

        Aviles to SS, Kila an Fields to DH, Callaspo to who knows where.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Jimmy says:

    Ankiel is an exciting player when he’s healthy. Rocket arm, good speed, and TONS of power. The head injury really rattled him last year. If he can stay healthy, I think he’s good for 30+ HRs and a .260 average. Just look at what he did in 2008 in only 120 games. The K and BB walks will not be pretty though.

    As a Cards fan through his whole rise and fall and rise again, I’ll always root for him, but I’m kind of glad he’s moved on. His success just can’t match what people in St. Louis have invested in him emotionally, as sappy as that sounds.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Joe R says:

      Ankiel is an exciting player when he’s healthy. Rocket arm, good speed, and TONS of power.

      In dedication to this weekend’s AFC Title game, don’t you mean a Laser Rocket Arm?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Hawerchuk says:

    Ankiel is apparently going to play CF. Guillen will DH. You know what that means for Hawaiian Thunder…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Logan says:

    Dave-

    Your take on this differs from THT’s (as I’m sure you’re well aware). I agree with yours.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. The Ancient Mariner says:

    Hmm . . . the Royals signed Ankiel; the Mets traded for Gary Matthews Jr. We may need to re-sort the Worst GM standings . . .

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Yukko says:

    Ankiel should be just fine… as long as he has found another internet supplier of HGH

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • jpdtrmpt72 says:

      i always wonder why no one ever brings this up about ankiel. its like they just forgot

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • MetsFanJerry says:

        on fangraphs nobody talks about PED use helping players because there is no way to determine their effect through statistical analysis…

        therefore, most of the fangraph community (and writers) just ignores the issue completely and don’t tackle the issue seriously.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Hufer says:

    Don’t worry, Minaya will trade for Jose Guillen and put him at 1B.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Coby DuBose says:

    I seem to recall a story about a blind squirrel and a nut. Anyone fill in the details from there for me?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • joser says:

      Squirrels find nuts with their noses, so that story has never made sense to me.

      Blind squirrels avoiding hawks would be much more interesting / impressive.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. lincolndude says:

    Putting up just his 2007-08 slash lines or wOBA is a little misleading. He played about one full season in those two years, or around 650 plate appearances.

    Also, I’m not sure why we should trust the projection systems less when a player is coming off an injury. Maybe if you add the caveat of “assuming he stays healthy,” you can give his projections a bump, but then what’s the point?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. PC4President says:

    The upside is bigger than the downside, no contest. I’ve been a Cardinals fan for over 10 years and I feel like I know Rick Ankiel as a player well. He’s clearly a very hard worker, he’s got a lot of power potential, and he’s a good fielder. For a minute, don’t look at the stats. What I’ve seen with my eyes over the past two years is a very solid outfielder with an unbelievable, unreal arm, strong and accurate. Let’s face it, the Royals can’t get much worse, and I think Rick Ankiel is going to do well for them.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sandy Kazmir says:

      I’ve been waiting to see him throw one over the backstop from the wall.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

      He is absolutely not a very good fielder.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TCQ says:

        Based on what, VEP? His UZR totals seem to indicate an OK fielder that isn’t so hot in center, but just like his hitting, his fielding is a bit more mutable than the average player given his relative lack of experience…

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        UZR has him terrible in center, and good in the corners, with center coming in a larger sample size. If you do a weighted-by-innings average of Ankiel’s UZR/150, and subtract 10 runs from his numbers in the corner (the difference in positional adjustments between center and corner OF is 10 runs), you get -7.4 career equivalent UZR/150 in center in 2045 innings.

        The fan’s scouting report also has him as one of the worst fielders in baseball among center fielders last year.

        Jeff Zimmerman’s UZR projections have him at -5 runs in center.

        Steve Sommer’s UZR projections, regressed to the fans scouting report have Ankiel at -6 runs in center.

        CHONE’s defensive projections, which use Total Zone rating, have Ankiel at -3 runs in center.

        So you’ve got the consensus that Ankiel’s about a -5 defender in center going forward, which would make him a bit about average in a corner outfield spot. That makes him a below average defender in the outfield overall, not a “very solid outfielder”.

        Now it’s possible he could improve, but he’s been in the outfield for 4 seasons now, so I doubt there is much of a learning curve left. He’s also 31 now, well past his defensive prime, and coming off of a year and a quarter in which he was injured.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • vivaelpujols says:

        FanGraphs won’t let me post the links for some reason, so you’ll just have to trust me on the numbers =)

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • TCQ says:

        Fair enough. He’s definitely not a huge minus though, especially if he’s used correctly(i.e. not in center), which I guess is the point I was making.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. Taylor says:

    Omar already countered with Gary Matthews Jr. Dayton has some work to do to get back into this contest.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. AndyS says:

    This is a complete waste of money. The royals already had like 5 OFs of around equal caliber. Ankiel is not going to be on this team when they’re competetive, and he’s not going to add more than a win at best.

    There’s a difference between fair, and good. This deal is fair. It is not, however, good.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • joser says:

      With Moore’s recent track record, “fair” might be as good as KC fans can hope for. On a team with Yuniesky Betancourt as a starting shortstop, this is pretty good.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • AndyS says:

        That doesn’t make it pretty good, that just makes it not absolutely horrible.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • joser says:

        In some kind of crazy, inconceivable world where Dayton Moore has a job as the General Manger of a Major League Baseball team (hard as it is to imagine, I know), it is in fact pretty good. In a world bounded by the constraints of rationality, it’s just not absolutely horrible. We may need to employ the Mad Hatter as translator. Remember what the Doormouse said….

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • JonnyBS says:

        Yes, Ankiel probably is not going to add more than a win, but if he rebounds, Moore can flip him during trade deadline for a prospect or two. Cheap upside is never bad.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TCQ says:

      Andy’s right here; we’re not judging Moore on a curve. Good is good, bad is bad, and just because Dayton’s moves generally grade out as about a Y doesn’t mean that an F is okay.

      That said, this is exactly the type of move the Royals should be making. Cheap upside is rarely a bad thing.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Brad says:

    I don’t see how this puts Minaya ahead of Moore in the contest. For all we know, Dayton’s counting on 200 innings and 15 wins from Ankiel.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Mike says:

    no mention of the supposed $6M mutual option? unless ankiel really does bounce back strongly, he’ll be next year’s jose guillen.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steve says:

      but if he doesn’t, the Royals will just decline the “mutual” option, no?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Mike says:

        that makes an awful lot of sense.

        I’ll shift gears and harp on the fact that Moore keeps putting together lineups of only low OBP players. No base cloggers allowed!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • DWrek says:

        Right, the option is pretty much pointless. If he plays well, he declines. If he plays poorly, the Royals decline.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Bradley says:

    BREAKING NEWS! “Moore to have Ankiel pitch!”

    According to Royals GM Dayton Moore:

    “We really liked the youtube clips we saw of this kid. We think he’s got some real potential as a 3rd starter this year…”

    He later went on, rubbing his hands together and smiling wildly, to say:

    “Yes, yes. This should put me over the top! That Omar has no idea how to counter THIS! Muahahaha!!!”

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. vivaelpujols says:

    Dave, I hate to go here, but have you seen the guy play? He wasn’t just injured last year, he was miserable. His plate discipline was far worse than it ever was in 07 and 08. His bat speed was definitely worse.

    Projecting a .350 wOBA is absurd. That comes from a guy who had a total of ~700 good plate appearances in the majors where he was good, and ~500 where he was miserable. Yes, he was injured, but you can’t just not factor that in to your projection of him going forward! Injuries effect players long term, and have a negative impact on their future performance.

    I don’t know how you can possibly defend this move. Ankiel is a below average fielder in center – probably about average in a corner, meaning he needs to hit for close to a .350 wOBA just to be league average. Last year he was replacement level.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Sky Kalkman says:

      Talk to RJ about Crawford’s approach at the plate in 2008. Seemed to rebound fine in 2009.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • hazel says:

        By Crawford’s approach, do you mean the 40 point BABIP swing and the regression of his HR/FB? Crawford swings at a lot of pitches, but he’s fast and he makes good contact.

        Ankiel has never had a good approach- he’s a bad ball swinger who has contact issues. His BABIP and HR/FB aren’t particularly out of whack, and his approach wasn’t anything but modestly worse between 08 and 09.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Sandy Kazmir says:

        Craw’s O-Contatct% was through the roof last year. It’s not that his approach changed, it’s that he put BIP that he had no business swinging at. His legs were the problem in 08, seems almost like foreshadowing for a player that should see some decline once they go for good. I love me some Craw, but a hacker is a hacker.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Tom Morris says:

      As a cardinals fan who’s watched almost every single game during Ankiel’s outfield tenure, I was extremely happy to see him sign with the Royals. It’s a case of significant addition by subtraction. Yes, he does have a cannon arm. But he also takes some of the worst routes I’ve ever seen by a centerfielder. We took to calling him “Skates” Ankiel because of how bad his first step is. First step in, fall down, then chase down the ball that went over your head. Maybe I’m missing something and the goal of a centerfielder is to make elaborate zig zag designs while chasing down fly balls. If so, then he is one of the best. Also, as far as hitters go, I’d like to know what pitch he can hit. Hard stuff, soft stuff, strikes, balls, high, low, inside, outside, he doesn’t hit anything hard on a consistent basis. Several times during last season opposing managers intentionally walked 2 hitters to get to ankiel. And as far as him being injured last season, he was hitting just as bad before he crashed into the wall as he did after. He has absolutely no plate discipline. The guy is a head case who crumbles in pressure situations and should have spent most of last season in the minors. I hope you enjoy that sub 700 ops and atrocious defense because that’s what you’re going to get. But on the plus side, have you seen the guy throw a football? He can really chuck it!

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. BX says:

    Moore is losing The Contest!

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. vivaelpujols says:

    I posted this on Viva El Birdos:

    For Ankiel, I think the question is how much injuries effected his 2009 performance. Going into 2009, Marcels had Ankiel at a .349 wOBA, so let’s say that was his estimated true talent level going into 2009.

    Now if we recalculated Marcels for 2010, we get a .325 wOBA. So how much of Ankiel’s performance last year would have to be attributable to injury to get .350? Well, for Ankiel to project for a .350 wOBA, he would have had to have a .350 wOBA last year – which was exactly the same as his projection going into 2009!

    So that means Dave is attributing 100% of his performance last year to injury, and not including ANY chance that the injury will effect him long term.

    Isn’t that completely ridiculous?

    To clarify, Marcels is just a 5-4-3 weighting of previous years wOBA and plate appearances adding in 1200 plate appearances of league average performance for regression to the mean, as well as an rough aging adjustment. It’s not a great projection system, but it’s open sourced, you can do it yourself, and it’s really not that much worse than the other systems out there.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • The Nicker says:

      Not to mention there is no assumption made about some sort of general performance dip in going from the NL (particularly the Nl Central) to the AL, which should be taken into account every time there’s a FA league switch.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivaelpujols says:

      I assume because this has a -7 net rating that means people disagree with my assessment here. It would be nice to hear the reasons for why you disagree.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • TCQ says:

      I really can’t figure what’s going on with the ratings. I have a +24(with zero negative ratings – probably blown that now) and basically no idea why.

      My guess would be that people read Dave’s article, were convinced(and it was certainly a good article) and dropped into the comments only to see like six posts patently disagreeing. It left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth too, to be honest, but especially in regards to the Marcels point, there really isn’t a good argument against it, except maybe that Cameron’s projection could be dialed back a bit – ~.340 with upside, maybe – without changing his overall point.

      I do like the thumbs up/thumbs down, though. It’s interesting at least, if nothing else.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  21. circlechange11 says:

    If Ankiel has a decent season, he and DeJesus could be the *best* “value per dollar” corner OF tandem in MLB.

    At this point, after watching him for years, I am skeptical at Ankiel’s ability to hit breaking stuff consistently.

    He and Chris Duncan are similar batters (IMO), while being completely different fielders.

    I like this deal for KC and for Anky. IMO, it’s all upside for KC. For Anky it’s a completely fresh start.

    Dave … I appreciate the article. It would have been easy to point out how Moore was signing another deadbeat off another good team, but I agree with basically everything you said, this is a good risk for KC.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  22. Circlechange11 says:

    I was only referring to the ability, or lack of, to hit breaking pitches. Rick and Cris, just from observations were overwhelmed consistently at that aspect.

    While it is not often discussed here, KC also signed a player who has a decent following in the MO/IL/KS area. As a lifelong Cards (and Anky fan) I’ll follow his 2010 season and contemplate going to see him play in KC.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • hazel says:

      Both Ankiel and Duncan have power and contact problems, but they have very different approaches at the plate.

      When Ankiel was good, he still had very little strike zone judgment. Good Ankiel has no eye but he makes up for it with extreme power and bat speed, hitting bad balls with the best of them. Bad Ankiel simply loses the ability to contact (or hit with power) the bad balls that he’s always swinging at.

      (Career O-Swing 33.0% Swing% 53.5 Contact% 73.2)

      Chris Duncan really is the opposite- he has never, ever been able to hit a breaking ball. Instead, good Duncan relies on patience, sitting on everything waiting for the fastball until he can muscle up and crush it. Even in his worst seasons, he’s a decent fastball hitter with a little bit of patience (he just plays terrible defense and sucks at hitting breaking balls).

      (Career O-Swing 21.5% Swing% 43.2 Contact% 75.5)

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        I agree completely.

        As one who roots for Duncan and Ankiel, I was very glad to see Duncan get a chance with another team (he was starting to get boo’d a lot and his LF defense was well, not good) and I’m excited to see Ankiel get a gig in KC, although I could handle him coming back to StL, but with Holliday-Rasmus-Ludwick, there’s just not enough PA’s to go around. I think a lot of folks either root for Ankiel, given what he has overcome and/or are still interested to see if he can make the full conversion to pretty good everyday MLB outfielder.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  23. Why would the royals ever play Ankiel in RF? They have Ankiel and Pods now. The best CF/RF combo in baseball. It would be totally unwise to play David DeJesus as long as Jose Guillen is healthy.

    (sarcasm)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  24. Bronnt says:

    Regarding The Contest, you’re leaving out the fact that the Mets agreed to pay Jeff Francoeur $5 million to play baseball next year.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  25. astrostl says:

    No mention of fan service? I don’t see a point in spending money from any reasonable $/WAR perspective because their wins still rate to be futile. I do, however, think that there’s real value in their viewership having a position player with a story and the potential to excite them. I see nothing but upside with him coming off a horrible year and playing for a team with no expectations.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  26. Adrian says:

    I was very glad to see Duncan get a chance with another team. and also It would be nice to hear the reasons for why you disagree.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  27. KIG1 says:

    Ankiel was a fan favorite in STL and I’m kind of sad to see him go, but it was the right move. I won’t miss him swinging at sliders in the dirt, but will miss his throws.

    For the Royals, it’s a pretty decent signing. He’ll hit around .255 / .315 with 15-20 HR.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  28. Patrick says:

    The whole thumbs down thing is getting pretty stupid when you have someone at a net -30 or whatever without a single response stating why people find the comment so unbearable. If you disagree with what someone is saying, fine, state your reasoning instead and maybe we can all be enlightened. However, if it just gets your drawers in a twist to see someone disagree with the author of the post then maybe you should be reading a different website.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>