Rick Ankiel-The Cards purchased the contract of Rick Ankiel, who just completed his first year as a minor-league outfielder. Ankiel, 26, hit a combined .259 with 21 home runs and 75 RBI in 85 games split between Double-A Springfield and Class A Quad Cities. He finished strong at the Double-A level, driving in 30 runs with 10 homers and seven doubles in his final 28 games. "Obviously, given what we saw we think he has an opportunity to make the team," assistant GM John Mozeliak said. "Give him a full spring training as a true position player and maybe some winter ball, it's something that we think he has the ability to play in the big leagues. You look at the last month he had, it's prolific. When you look at our depth in the outfield, it just seemed to make sense."
Brooks Kieschnick-a former Texas Longhorns standout recently released by Milwaukee, agreed Thursday to a minor-league contract with the Houston Astros. Kieschnick, 32, started his pro career as an outfielder but started pitching some in 1999 before becoming a full-time reliever for Milwaukee in 2003. He is 2-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 74 major league appearances, and he has a career batting average of .248. A three-time Southwest Conference player of the year at Texas, Kieschnick was the 10th overall pick by the Chicago Cubs in 1993. He spent parts of six seasons with Chicago, Cincinnati, Colorado and Milwaukee.
The rare pitcher-outfielder combo gives the Brewers some solid innings and pinch-hit at-bats throughout the season. As a reliever, Kieschnick was much improved last season, posting a 3.77 ERA in 43 innings. But he slipped as the powerful lefty hitter, hitting just one homer compared to seven in 2003. In terms of Fantasy leagues, he has far less value, however, because he won't be slotted in a significant enough role as neither pitcher nor hitter. Avoid him on Draft Day for your Fantasy team, but he can at least be a conversation piece for his rare versatility. (Updated 1/21/05)