Remember Rick Ankiel? His story is a pretty terrific. Insanely talented pitcher gets yips, blows up on National TV. Nearly driven to madness, can’t miss prospect gives up pitching in pursuit of career as outfielder. More amazingly, Rick Ankiel actually pieced together something of a career as an outfielder. How good? Let’s play a little game.
(Note: some creative liberties taken with Ankiel Redemption Arc. We’re making show business here, people!)
Who is up for a little bit of player A/player B?
Player A is our hero Ankiel, since his first full season as a position player with the Cardinals in 2008. In that time, Ankiel split a season between Kansas City and Atlanta before spending the last two years with the Nationals.
Player B is former first round draft pick, can’t miss slugging outfielder who “should contend for multiple MVPs in his career” Travis Snider. This comparison exists not to belittle Snider but to point out that hitting is very, very hard and what Rick Ankiel did/is doing ranks as nothing short of a miracle.
Can Micah Owings replicate this miracle? He is certainly going to try and the Nationals are going to give the former Diamondbacks hurler every opportunity, signing Ownings to a minor league contract…as a first baseman.
Owings’ power is legit and the stuff of legend. He was regularly used as a pinch hitter during his career with Arizona, San Diego, and Cincinnati. Mostly because he could seriously slug the crap out of the baseball. The 30-year old right-hander made just six appearances last year with San Diego after an elbow surgery in June, presumably his final kicks at the pitching can.
Fun with numbers: Micah Owings is 36th among active players with a .502 slugging percentage (min. 200 PA), just ahead of Matt Kemp.
— Andrew Simon (@HitTheCutoff) February 6, 2013
The weird part of this deal, for me, is making Owings a first baseman. Dude, you made the big leagues throwing baseballs! Now you’ve given all that up to replicate the man you were once traded for, Adam Dunn.
There is not a lot to dislike about this move. In fact, I think I love it. The Nats have a shot at free power from an unlikely place while Owings gets a second chance at a big league career. He is sure to strikeout a ton and he probably doesn’t run the bases or field very well but here we are! Honestly, how much worse can he be than Mike Morse? Well, a lot. But still!
No matter what happens to Owings as a full-time hitter, he will always have this game to look back on fondly. Owings struck out seven Braves in seven innings, walking none en route to the victory. He also banged out two home runs as part of a four hit, six RBIs day. Owings contributed .276 WPA at the plate and .129 WPA on the mound that faithful night. That’s an efficient night at the ballpark.