Ankiel returns, for no apparent reason

July, 22, 2010
7/22/10
4:10
PM ET
Craig Calcaterra on a (typically) puzzling move by the Royals:
    The Royals are about to call up Rick Ankiel from Omaha, where he has put up a batting line of .270/.281/.556 in 63 at bats while rehabbing. Meanwhile, Alex Gordon is batting .315/.442/.577 in 260 at bats since being sent down, presumably to learn left field.

    Query: given Ankiel's injury history and his own defensive limitations, why on Earth isn't Alex Gordon getting the shot in Kansas City's outfield instead of Ankiel?

    The only reason I can possibly think of is that the Royals think they can trade Ankiel and want to showcase him for a bit, but that's a bit delusional, ain't it? Guy hasn't played in the majors for nearly three months.

Delusional? Yeah, probably. Because he hasn't played in a while, but also because, you know, he's not real good. In his last 141 major league games, Ankiel's got a .228/.283/.392 line. Oh, and he's not exactly a Gold Glover in center field. (Actually, if you believe the Ultimate Zone Ratings he's downright terrible out there.)

Ankiel probably takes over in center field from Mitch Maier, who's just as good as Ankiel but suffers from a significantly smaller salary.

As for Alex Gordon, there's little connection (yet) between him and Ankiel. Right now Gordon's prospective positions are held by Scott Podsednik (left field), Jose Guillen (DH), Billy Butler (first base) and Alberto Callaspo (third base). Similarly, Kila Ka'ahuie is playing brilliantly in Omaha but is blocked by Guillen and Butler.

Billy Butler's not going anywhere. Which means if Gordon and Ka'ahuie are going to get their shots (as they certainly should), the Royals will have to make a couple of trades (as they certainly should).

It's been an underreported story (by me, anyway), but suddenly the Royals have some of the best prospects in the minors. No, not Gordon and Ka'ahuie; they're too old. Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer -- (high) first-round draft picks in 2007 and '8 -- have destroyed pitchers this season.

Unfortunately, Hosmer's a first baseman and Moustakas is trending in the same direction. Yes, the Royals have to trade Jose Guillen. But they might have to consider dealing Billy Butler, too. Otherwise they might well have too many players in a couple of years for too few positions. Sort of like now.

Update: A friend points out that Ankiel's been in the minors on a rehab assignment; if the Royals don't activate him and keep him in the majors, they'll have to release him ... Which would be a bad thing why, exactly?

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