Well, he’s famous. A lot more famous than his results dictate. Ankiel was the #1 prospect in baseball at one point, a hard-throwing lefthanded pitcher. He made it up to the majors briefly with the Cardinals as a 19-year-old, and at 20 went 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA, 194 strikeouts in 175 innings. And then, he lost it. Leading 6-0 in the first game of the 2000 NLDS against the Braves, Ankiel suffered a sudden and total loss of pitching ability, throwing four walks and five wild pitches in the third inning. And he never recovered. He showed some flashes in the lower levels of the minors, but his control was utterly shot and eventually he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2003. After five games in relief in 2004, the Cardinals threw up their hands and converted him to an outfielder.
He showed some pop, slugging .515 (17 HR/21 2B) in 2005 in A and AA. The Cards planned to bring him up as a spare outfielder in 2006, but he blew out his knee and missed the season. In 2007, he led the PCL in homers with 32, slugging .568, and then hit .285/.328/.535 in a 47-game callup. In 2008, he stayed on the major league roster, hitting 25 homers, but pitchers were starting to figure him out and over the last couple of years his production has faded. He also got caught up in an HGH dragnet; he says that the drug was prescribed to him. He may have even been telling the truth, and, once again, there’s no evidence that HGH does anything to aid athletic performance. The Cards let him go after last season and he was picked up by the Royals. He’s missed much of this season with various injuries, and has really become an all-or-nothing player, a guy with poor on-base skills but some power.
Ankiel’s major league OBP is .311, .315 since he was converted from the mound. He has obvious tools, but lost too much development time as a pitcher to really learn how to hit. He’s a good defensive corner outfielder who can be stretched to center, like most of the Braves’ outfielders. The assumption is that he will play center at least part of the time with the Braves, and can’t really be any worse than Melky.