- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The Atlanta Braves have Rookie of the Year candidate Jason Heyward in right field, but as for the rest of their outfielders this season, it really hasn't been very good. In fact, no other major league team's center fielders have produced fewer runs. And left field hasn't been much better. Adding Rick Ankiel from the Kansas City Royals should help some, but not enough to make him worth adding in ESPN standard (10-team) mixed leagues.
Ankiel, acquired Saturday along with relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth for pitchers Jesse Chavez and Tim Collins as well as outfielder Gregor Blanco, hasn't been very good -- or healthy -- since the 2008 season, when he hit 25 home runs and batted .264. Since then, in 149 games, Ankiel has hit .237 with 15 home runs and spent much time on the disabled list with various ailments. Those in NL-only leagues should spend a few bucks to acquire Ankiel, as he's likely to play against right-handed pitching and hit the occasional home run, but overall he won't help much.
The Braves also have Matt Diaz, Melky Cabrera and Eric Hinske fitting into the outfield picture, and Nate McLouth, hitting an embarrassing .168 this season, could come back from Triple-A Gwinnett at any point. In other words, Ankiel should play if he hits, and unlike Hinske, he can handle himself in center field. With Cabrera holding his own (to some degree) against southpaws, look for an Ankiel-Cabrera platoon in center field, and Hinske-Diaz in left field.
As for Farnsworth, a key to the Braves' playoff run in 2005, he still throws hard and was actually having a pretty good season for the Royals, with a 2.42 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Billy Wagner is safe as closer and Peter Moylan, Takashi Saito and Jonny Venters probably didn't need much help, so don't expect Farnsworth to accumulate even holds.
The Royals were looking to move salary, and the players they received don't figure to contribute fantasy relevant statistics. Blanco might get playing time because the Royals were already short on outfielders -- only Alex Gordon in left field is a definite -- but he doesn't do much. When given a crazy 519 plate appearances as a rookie in 2008, Blanco hit .251 with a .676 OPS, supplying one home run and 13 stolen bases. Since then, the Braves have given him 114 plate appearances.
Chavez is a well-traveled right-hander with control and home run issues. Even if Joakim Soria were to get hurt, Chavez wouldn't be next in line for saves.
Collins, a 20-year-old lefty picked up in the Yunel Escobar-Alex Gonzalez trade two weeks earlier, has fanned 87 hitters in 51 innings in Double-A action this season, all in relief. In a few years we could be looking at a closer, but not in 2010.
Eric Karabell examines the role Rick Ankiel will have in a crowded but underperforming Atlanta Braves outfield.