Ankiel, 31, has compiled a
.232 on-base percentage .232 average and a .298 on-base percentage the past two seasons with the Cardinals, Royals and Braves and his spring training statistics lag behind both Morgan’s and Bernadina’s. But the Nationals, apparently, are betting that improved health and a close connection with hitting coach Rick Eckstein will restore Ankiel’s form from 2008, when he drilled 25 home runs with a .337 on-base percentage and a .506 slugging percentage.
This spring, Ankiel has hit .200/.250/.467 with three home runs – second among Nationals hitters – in 45 at-bats. Ankiel may not run as fast as Morgan in center field, but his outfield arm is considered one of the best in the game and would be a decided upgrade over Morgan. Last season, Ankiel scored a -1.5 UZR/150, per FanGraphs.com, compared to 4.2 for Morgan.
While the Nationals appear decided on Ankiel, the question becomes what they’ll do with Morgan, who is entering his final season before becoming eligible for arbitration. They could keep him on their major league roster as a fourth outfielder, option him to the minor leagues or attempt to trade him.
It would be virtually impossible for the Nationals to keep Morgan, Matt Stairs and Laynce Nix on the major league roster. Manager Jim Riggleman has said there is a “good chance” Stairs makes the team, and the Nationals are high on Nix as a backup outfielder.