Found February 07, 2012 on The Nats Blog:

The Washington Nationals signed OF Rick Ankiel to a minor-league contract on Monday, and he will likely make the team either as a fourth outfielder or as part of a platoon in center field.  The ultimate decision for Ankiel's role may tell us exactly what the Nats expect from Bryce Harper.

The Nats have signed a bevy of veteran utility type players this offseason, including Ankiel, Mike Cameron, Mark DeRosa, and most recently, Mark Teahen.  GM Mike Rizzo has truly taken to the idea that you can't have too much depth in spring training.  The Nationals couldn't have had this problem in even the recent past.  The franchise wasn't interested in depth, they were worried about putting any competent product on the field.  Now, they know who they want the on-field talent to be, but in Harper's case, it may not happen on April 5th.

Until then, players like Rick Ankiel, who will make $1.25 million in 2012 if he's added to the 40-man roster during or after Spring Training, plus the opportunity to make $1.5 million in performance incentives, will fill the holes.  Ankiel is not a full-time solution in center field for any baseball team looking to compete, and has a fascinating article up explaining why.  In short, Ankiel is just staggeringly terrible against left-handed pitching.  However, as the article continues, the combination of Ankiel and Mike Cameron could do a fine job to rack up some innings.  Add Jayson Werth's ability to man center field in a pinch, and Roger Bernadina's above average speed, despite his below average paths to the baseball, the Nationals could have a workable solution.

Even though platoons often get a bad rap because it's usually comprised of past-their-prime or average to below-average players, this center field platoon actually provides numerous options for the Nationals in 2012.  The most important is Bryce Harper can stay in the minors to get more at-bats.  Harper had an outstanding minor league season in Low-A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg, finishing with a .297/.392/.501 slash line on the season.  His numbers in Harrisburg did drop significantly, though, and he could certainly use some more at-bats against advanced breaking balls.

By keeping Harper in the minors to get additional at-bats, it also opens the corner outfield spots for Werth and Michael Morse.  When Harper is eventually recalled, it is going to create a significant log jam for Morse.  The likeliest scenario is Werth moving to center with Harper in right and Morse in left, putting the Ankiel/Cameron/Bernadina platoon back on the bench.  This is the ideal situation, and an underrated signing like Ankiel's allows the team to do that.  This gets further complicated if the Nats sign an every day center fielder, but that's certainly a problem they'd love to have.

Rick Ankiel as a platooning center fielder is certainly not the ideal situation, but it does provide an adequate stop gap with a few other signed veterans while the team's future prepares in the minor leagues.  It's a situation the Nationals have never been in before, where they have multiple solid options that could put a successful product out on the field, with depth waiting in the wings.  It's probably a feeling Nats fans should get used to over the next several years.


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Video: Rick Ankiel and his bazooka arm

And so, Rick Ankiel and his bazooka arm will return to the Nats (for a little while anyway) on a minor league deal, setting up a CF platoon in Washington unitl Bryce Harper is deemed ready. Above: Relive the magic from September 2011, when Ankiel's cannon blew up the Mets' Josh Thole at the plate. BOOM! Befriend the Nats Enquirer on Facebook...

National sign OF Ankiel

The Washington Nationals signed outfielder Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract. Ankiel appeared in 122 games - tying a career high - with the Nationals last season, batting .239 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs. The 32-year-old Ankiel had his best season with St. Louis in 2008, batting .264 with 25 homers and 71 RBIs.

Nationals Sign Rick Ankiel

The Nationals have signed Rick Ankiel to a minor league contract with a spring training invite, according to Amanda Comak of the Washington Times. Ankiel hit .236 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs in 122 appearances for the Nationals last season. The Mets were reportedly very interested in Ankiel and according to Jon Heyman, they were trying to scrape up the $1 million dollars...

Nationals sign Rick Ankiel

The Washington Nationals have signed Rick Ankiel to a minor league deal, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports. The deal includes an invite to Spring Training. Image taken by shgmom56 and used under the Creative Common License Agreement.

Platooning Cameron and Ankiel: A Capital Idea

The Washington Nationals have been making headlines lately with big such as trading for Gio Gonzalez and getting a one-year deal with Edwin Jackson. They were even rumored to be in on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes. Some of the Nationals’ other moves understandably have garnered less attention, such as minor-league deals for veteran outfielders Mike Cameron and (more recently)...

Report: Ankiel, Nats have minor league deal

A person familiar with the deal says the Washington Nationals have agreed to a minor league contract with outfielder Rick Ankiel.

Harper confident he can make club this spring

How did Bryce Harper feel after hearing manager Davey Johnson is going to give him every chance to make the club? "I feel really positive about going to Spring Training this year," Harper said. "I really feel I have a legit shot at making the club."

Nats, Ankiel agree to Minor League deal

Rick Ankiel has agreed to terms on a Minor League contract that will have him back with the Nationals in 2012, a baseball source confirmed.

Bryce Harper wants to be like Joe Namath, have fun off the field

Bryce Harper may be only 19 years old and have enormous baseball potential, but he is not exactly the most lovable character. Harper marches to the beat of his own drum and doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks about it. That confidence likely has contributed to his success on the baseball field, but it also tends to irritate the people around him. Harper has struggled in the...

Nationals give Ankiel, Teahen minor league deals

The Washington Nationals agreed to terms with outfielder Rick Ankiel and utility man Mark Teahen on minor league deals that include invites to spring training.

Mets move on from ‘bargain bin’ in search for lefty-hitting outfielder

According to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the New York Mets are all but done pursuing those lefty-hitting free agents currently on the market.  After losing out on Rick Ankiel those players include names like Kosuke Fukudome, Johnny Damon and Raul Ibanez.  The market for these players, however, put them in a familiar category and allow us yet another opportunity to invoke...

FanGraphs+ 2012: Available Now!

FanGraphs+ (formerly The Second Opinion) is now available for just $4.99! Here’s what you get: Player Profiles – Over 1100 player profiles written by the FanGraphs and RotoGraphs contributors you’re already familiar with. Available on either the player pages or in blog format. Articles – 11 in-depth articles to help you win your league: -Keeper League Prospect & Rookie...

Bryce Harper would like to pattern himself after Joe Namath

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