Free agent outfielder Rick Ankiel found a new home last week, signing a one-year $3.25 million deal with the Kansas City Royals. There's a mutual option for 2011 worth $6 million, and Ankiel can earn up to $500,000 in incentives this season.
Many still remember Ankiel as the young pitcher who suffered control problems back in the 2000 playoffs and never found the solution. However, Ankiel declared himself an outfielder and climbed his way back to the major leagues.
The 30 year-old Ankiel is a powerful left-handed hitter and notched a 25 home run season in 120 games (463 plate appearances) back in 2008 before his year was ended by injury. That year, Ankiel hit .264 with a .337 OBP and 71 RBI while playing mostly in centerfield.
Last season, Ankiel again battled injuries but finished much worse, hitting just .231 with 11 home runs and 38 RBI in 404 plate appearances. That performance certainly had an effect on his free agent negotiations, as Ankiel and his super-agent Scott Boras were seeking a multi-year deal.
Ankiel has power to spare, but he lacks much of a major league track record and is a free-swinger who hits a pretty low batting average. Since his conversion to the outfield, Ankiel has hit .255 with a .317 OBP and 240 strikeouts against 81 walks in 1057 plate appearances. While Ankiel's performance last season might have been hampered by injuries, he's done little to prove that he's really any better than these numbers indicate.
Ankiel will join a Royals outfield that includes Scott Podsednik, David DeJesus, and Jose Guillen (who will likely serve as the designated hitter). Of those three, only Guillen provides any real home run power, so the Royals likely added Ankiel to try to change that.
From a fantasy perspective, Ankiel provides marginal value, as he really only helps in the home run category, and then only when fully healthy. He's never posted 500 plate appearances in a season, and he's joining a much weaker lineup than the one he played with in St. Louis. He may have a shot at 25-30 home runs if everything falls into place, but Ankiel will likely struggle to post good numbers in 2010.