04/11/2005: Can Rick Ankiel make The Show as an outfielder?
The Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon doesn't seem to be betting against it:
Ankiel cleared waivers as a $400,000 major league pitcher this week and returned to the Cardinals as a minor league outfielder, starting over again. He joined Reid Gorecki and Skip Schumaker near the top of the developmental chart at that position.Well, I hate to say that if I were wagering, I'd bet against Rick myself (remember Damon Runyon's advice: "The race isn't always to the swift or the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet"). But on the other hand, that would be a wager I wouldn't mind losing.
The Cards have lots of minor leaguers who can fill an outfield hole. But their guys in Memphis are depth guys, fill-ins, players not projected for major league glory.
John Gall is the best of that bunch, but he is a converted first baseman who apparently lacks the bat to play every day in the bigs.
Gorecki, a line-driver hitter with wheels, probably ranks next on the list. He is starting his season at Class AA Springfield and has been given the impression that his move-up to Memphis is inevitable. Schumaker is a fine defender, but just a spray hitter.
He lasted a long time with the Cards in spring training and got called back for some split-squad duty. Gorecki could be a solid player some day, but he lacks Ankiel’s power stroke.
That’s why we continue lighting an Ankiel candle in this corner of cyberspace. The kid is a very special case.
He pounded the ball down in the minor league camp at Jupiter. He can run like the wind. During his one extended pitching stint in the big leagues, he was a very competitive hitter. During a brief stint as a Class A designated hitter, he slugged 10 homers.
Our initial guess had him starting at “high” Class A West Palm Beach. The Cards' initial guess had him a notch lower, at Class A Quad Cities.
Instead, he will start the season at Class AA Springfield. He will face top pitching prospects, kids literally one step from the bigs -– since the Class AAA level tends to be a brief stopover for the best prospects.
We’ll know soon enough whether Ankiel can be more than a novelty as a crossover player. He’ll face pitchers with big league arms AND a bit of polish, too.
Len on 04.11.05 @ 06:41 AM CST