Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
The bittersweet feelings of many Washington Nationals fans over the current Adam LaRoche-Michael Morse debacle of not having enough room on the field to keep all their favorite players first surfaced this summer with Rick Ankiel. On July 19, which also happened to be his birthday, Ankiel was designated for assignment by the team to make room on the active roster for Drew Storen to come off the disabled list.
The pitcher-turned-outfielder brought his bazooka of an arm to Washington in 2011 and was the everyday centerfielder for the majority of that season. But in 2012 with the emergence of Bryce Harper and Tyler Moore and the improved performance of Roger Bernadina, Ankiel was reduced to a member of the Goon Squad as a late-innings defensive replacement.
Despite his defensive contributions, when the time came to make room on the roster Ankiel was the choice to DFA because of his dwindling offensive production. He was striking out too much for a pinch hitter, holding the seventh-most strikeouts on the team (59) with only 158 at-bats. The six other players with more strikeouts had between 400 and 600 at-bats. He finished his time with the Nationals with a slash line of .228/.282/.411 a WAR of zero according to FanGraphs.
Ankiel was well respected by Nationals management and by his teammates – Harper called Ankiel one of his biggest mentors – so the decision to cut him was a difficult one. But the good news for Nats fans is that when your team is faced with hard decisions like this, when it is allowed to be more selective with the players it fields, and when “sufficient” is no longer an adjective worthy of describing its players, that means your team has entered into a new era.
Next Year: Ankiel is only 33 years old and is still a legitimate Major League player. Although the Nationals outgrew him, he still has a great chance of landing a Minor League deal with another team to start the 2013 season. His 10 years of experience could prove invaluable to another team looking for a veteran clubhouse presence.
Up Next: #24 Kurt Suzuki