In an interview with TCPalm.com, Rick Ankiel saw the Houston Astros and his eyes lit up with opportunity.
First of all, there are the connections. Bo Porter was his 3rd Base coach in Washington last year. There are the obvious Cardinals connections. And then there was the opportunity - Ankiel allegedly picked Houston over three other unnamed teams.
"When I look at some of the players they have, I think there's some playing time for me. Everybody's so young, and I have the chance to make an impact and play in the outfield. Not only that, but I'm being able to give back and teach some of the younger guys to learn the game the way I did. Most of the other choices I had, I was the fourth or fifth guy, so the playing time probably wouldn't be there. In Houston, I had the chance for the most playing time."
Is he right? Well, let's look at the OFs on the 40-Man Roster:
Justin Maxwell is the one guy I look at and see as a lock for the outfield. "The Martinii" (so coined by the fellers over at the Crawfish Boxes, I believe) have well-documented injury troubles. And also "hitting" troubles. Fernando Martinez did manage a career-high .766 OPS, but also only played in 41 games. J.D. Martinez had a less-stellar .685 OPS. I'd give the edge to Fernando Martinez here.
Robbie Grossman. Hm. Dark-horse candidate. Could be one of those guys who tears it up in Spring Training and forces a hard decision, but still basically has only played a year in Double-A. Nah.
Jimmy Paredes? Listed on the 40-Man as an outfielder, but spent the majority of his career in the infield. That said, with Lowrie and Altuve seemingly entrenched as the DP combo, he has since moved to the outfield. Could be a better short-term bet than Grossman, with his .826 OPS at OKC. In a ridiculously small-sample 24 games for Houston (82 PAs), Paredes hit .189/.244/.230.
How about the other Non-Roster Invitees for Spring Training:
You can pretty much rule out Goebbert, Krauss, and Springer for being minor-league guys. They'll stay in the system, but are likely ticketed for OKC/Corpus.
Che-Hsuan Lin only has 12 major-league PAs. But in two seasons at Triple-A, he has a .242/.324/.305 line. 29-year old Trevor Crowe has spent at least part of his season in Triple-A since 2008, and has averaged a .739 OPS.
So. Barring some ridiculous Luke Scott-esque Spring Training, Rick Ankiel does have a shot, I suppose. Though 2008 was the last time he had an OPS over .800. He'd have to sit against LHPs (career .641 OPS vs. LHP - and that includes four straight years with an OPS under .600). Is it a good opportunity for him? Better than the other three options he apparently had, anyway...