Not that I think this is a project for the Cardinals... But the sad news that former Marlins, Tigers and Diamondbacks pitcher Dontrelle Willis was released over the weekend makes me wonder if he might follow in the footsteps of another hard throwing lefty hurler with an unusual delivery.
Could Willis make like Rick Ankiel and come back as a position player?
He's a .232 career hitter and has shown pretty good power in the limited number of at bats a starting pitcher gets. He's got eight homers, five triples and 10 doubles in 358 career at bats.
The problem for Willis is that he's without an organization. If he were with one team his whole career like Ankiel was at the time, that club might feel like it's worth it to take chance on a career change. It may be a lot harder to get a new team to give him a contract on the snow ball's chance that he could make it back to the big leagues with his bat after so few times at the plate.
Another negative is that Ankiel was 27 by the time he made it back to the majors following a couple of years to learn his new craft in the minors. Willis is already 28. But Ankiel had only had 87 at bats with four extra base hits as a major league pitcher when he made the switch. So there is a lot more reason to believe Willis could hit major league pitching at this point of his career than there was when Ankiel hung it up as a hurler.
Whether it's as a pitcher or a hitter, I hope Willis can get it back together. It's heartbreaking to see his sort of talent go to waste.