Ackley brings transfusion of young, talented blood

Dustin Ackley
Dustin Ackley poses for his official team photo at Mariners media day.

Following a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on June 14, the Seattle Mariners decided to promote a significant piece of their future to the big league ball club. Second basemen Dustin Ackley was called-up to jump-start a Mariners offense that ranks dead last in the major leagues and had begun to fall back down to earth after a recent power surge.

In a press conference addressing the media about the latest roster move, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said, “We just felt it was time. We talked about some time in June we thought he would be ready. In discussion with the coaches down there, they all felt this is the time. He has been swinging the bat well. So here it is. He’ll be here Friday and we’ll look forward to his contributions.”

During his first career series against the Philadelphia Phillies at Safeco Field over the weekend Ackley thrilled the crowds by going 3 for 11 (.273 AVG) with a homerun, a triple, a single, and two runs scored. The single came in his first career at-bat and against ace pitcher Roy Oswalt. Ackley also flashed some leather and looked more than capable as a major league caliber second basemen during the three-game set.

Drafted #2 overall in 2009, Ackley’s progression through the minors had been just as swift as his smooth left-handed swing. As the team’s top prospect, Ackley, an outstanding hitter in college at North Carolina was batting .303 with 9 home runs and 35 RBIs in AAA Tacoma this season and looks to provide some much-needed support at the top of Seattle’s struggling lineup.

The young hitter’s patience at the plate and ability to get on base should be of especially great value to an M’s club that has had trouble manufacturing runs. Ackley walked 55 times in just 66 games and recorded a .421 on-base percentage (OBP).

The main concerns scouts and analysts alike have had while projecting Ackley as a major leaguer have been primarily focused around his defense. Ackley came to UNC as a natural shortstop but played outfield throughout his collegiate career. He also spent some time at first base while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Due to an abundance of outfielders in the farm system and young power-hitter, Justin Smoak holding down first base, the Mariners decided to work with Ackley on making the transition to the middle infield.

Asking a ballplayer to work out at a new position at this level of ball is certainly risky business but it is best done while the player is young and willing to learn.

Ackley’s natural athleticism and strong work ethic have seemingly made the position change an easy one. He recorded an errorless streak of 36 games in the minors prior to his promotion and analysts had noticed more fluidity and confidence from him in the field. “He is a guy we feel strong about. We like his bat and he’s made tremendous strides at second base,” said manager Eric Wedge.

With Ackley’s promotion, 10 rookies have now earned playing time for the Mariners just four months into the season.

It has become clear that Seattle’s youth movement is finally starting to come into play, just as Zduriencik and Mariners faithful have imagined.