The Arm. The Freak. Ank the Tank. Rick Ankiel's defensive prowess is an exciting part of the Washington Nationals, capable of producing a highlight at almost any point in the game. But it is his all around make up that could prove most valuable to the Nats.
Disclaimer: I fully acknowledge Rick Ankiel is not Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman or even Jayson Werth.
There is nothing ordinary about Rick Ankiel, his story, his tool set or his current situation. Still developing as an outfielder and hitter, he is in a unique place to help the Nats. Absent serious run producers and not wanting to rush Bryce Harper's development, Ankiel's defense, mixed with his flashes of power give the Nats an out.
I'm sure the Nats thought Rick would be a nice insurance policy when they signed him to a minor league deal this spring. A left-handed bat on the bench, a late inning replacement for Morse or Bernie. There aren't many defensive replacements who can post a slugging percentage over .400 for a career (he is at .426 for the current season). Outside of Adam LaRoche, Ankiel has the highest slugging percentage on the Nats.
The current outfield of Ank, Harper and Werth could very well be the plan for quite a while. As has been detailed here previously, injuries on the Nats tend to persist, so the idea that Michael Morse will be arrive back on time is almost naive. Would this really be a bad thing? Of course we could use Morse's bat, but the combination of power, speed and defense those three provide would be formidable.