What action to take with Ackley?

The Seattle Mariners selected Dustin Ackley second overall in last year’s amateur draft and he immediately became one of the best prospects in baseball.  The polished left-handed hitter was being penciled into Seattle’s 2011 opening day lineup before his pen even hit the paper and signed the contract.  However, where he would fit defensively was a major question.

Ackley spent nearly his entire career at North Carolina playing first base, but his wiry 6’1″ 185-pound frame and likely 15-20 home run power made that translation to the big leagues unlikely.  With respectable speed, experience in the outfield, and a questionable arm due to Tommy John surgery, left field seemed like the most logical choice.

On top of Ackley’s tools fitting left field perfectly, the position is also the one Seattle is in biggest need of.  The immediate answer in LF was the uncontrollable Milton Bradley, and the team still had a major hole at DH with Ken Griffey Jr.  Between those two and Ackley, the team would’ve had a pretty good shot at receiving solid production from both positions this year.

Yet, it appears Seattle has different plans.  Instead of putting Ackley in left field and fast tracking him to the majors, they’ve decided to plop a new position into his lap, second base.  Not only will it take him a good amount of time to learn the position, but it’s also a position that’s relatively blocked at the big league level.  Prior to the year, the team signed Chone Figgins to a 4-year, $36 million deal and moved him to second base with incumbent 2B Jose Lopez, who is under contract for another two years, moving to third.

Of course, Figgins was merely an afterthought when Seattle surprisingly landed ace Cliff Lee in a three-team trade.  Lee’s contract is up after this year and his agent has already expressed the unlikeliness of him returning to Seattle.  With that in mind, there’s a great pressure on the Seattle taking advantage of his services this year and making a run into the post-season like many thought they would.

The pitching and defense have been there, but the hitting has not.  By placing Ackley at 2B, Seattle has handcuffed itself and taken a potential bat out of a lineup that desperately needs it.  It doesn’t make sense to interrupt the process of him learning the position by placing him anywhere else; they’ve painted themselves into a corner.  The team ranks second to last in runs scored and slugging percentage, third to last in on base percentage and sixth to last in batting average.  It’s a unit that has absolutely nothing going for it.

I’m sure Seattle was envisioning the next Chase Utley when they determined 2B was the spot for Ackley, and I’m also pretty sure he’s going to be a success there.  It’s also important to note that Ackley has got off to a rough start in AA, but that could be the result of learning a new position defensively.  Regardless, the Mariners should’ve done everything possible to get the most out of the situation they’re in this year, and they did not do that by taking this action with Ackley.

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One Comment on “What action to take with Ackley?”

  1. Disco Says:

    I can understand if they would have put him left field, but Ackley was so highly touted they probably thought of him as the future of the franchise. With that potential, I wouldn’t mess with him just for 2010. So I’d have put him at the spot that is best for him and the team long term, and they decided it was 2b.


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