Royals get value for Ankiel

Atlanta has made itself marginally better, maybe, but it gave up a valuable, cheap middle relief piece who was a big part of why I liked its deal with Toronto earlier in the month.

Rick Ankiel is a bench piece who can't play center every day, doesn't control the zone and has had trouble staying healthy. He has raw power, but his ability to get to it has declined as pitchers have exploited his weakness against off-speed stuff. Kyle Farnsworth is actually having something rare for him -- a good year -- partly due to good control, but partly due to luck keeping the ball in the park, which isn't likely to continue for a guy who's not a ground-ball pitcher and tends to work with straight heat up in the zone.

The Royals get one real prospect in return, diminutive lefty Tim Collins, who can't be mentioned in print without some reference to his height. I wrote when Atlanta acquired him in the Yunel Escobar deal that he "has dominated at every level where he's pitched, including AA this year; he has great feel, a solid-average fastball and changeup with an above-average 12-to-6 curveball, but unless he improves the breaking ball or continues to improve his walk rate, he's probably more of a setup guy than a potential closer." Needless to say, nothing has changed in the last two-plus weeks, although Collins did face 29 batters in Atlanta's system, striking out 14.

Gregor Blanco is a solid fourth outfielder who works the count a little and can play all three outfield positions but has no power and won't hit enough to play every day. Jesse Chavez has been below replacement level this year for Atlanta, but I could see him being better than that for the next two years for KC as the 11th or 12th man on their staff.

Landing Collins alone for Farnsworth and Ankiel is still a solid return for the Royals, who retain their lead over Arizona in the race for the most quality left-handed arms in one farm system.