Mariners trotting out two potential ROTYs

After almost a decade of watching the Mariners struggle with turning their farm system prospects into productive major league players, the rebuilding finally seems to be paying off. The Mariners now have two rookies that are not only performing well for their limited experience but are showing up the majority of their own teammates.
Michael Pineda has been making headlines since the beginning of the season. While there were worries coming out of spring training that some of his pitches weren’t yet developed enough to make a proper major league debut, he has responded by posting a 2.58 ERA through his 108 innings of work this year, good for 11th in the league. His ERA is tied for fifth among pitchers with at least 100 innings, and he’s averaging nearly a strikeout an inning. Scouts and sports journalists have marveled at his control and consistency, giving Seattle a second ace to go along with Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez.
Out at second base is the second pick in the 2009 MLB draft, Dustin Ackley. Less than a year older than Michael Pineda, Ackley has been a hitting revelation for the offense-challenged Mariners. While he doesn’t yet have a full month under his belt, he has made the most of his playing time with a line of .379/.588/.968. With two triples, three home runs and a number of key hits in his young season, Ackley looks like a prime candidate for a future run at the cycle. And despite early reports that his defense wasn’t up to snuff, Ackley has performed better than could be expected for a youngster learning a new position. The Ackley-Ryan double-play combo has been more effective than expected.
Pineda has been the consensus leader in the American League Rookie of the Year battle, awarded to the most impressive young player with at least 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched. Pineda has already doubled his qualifications, while Ackley, with 50 at-bats, would need an injury (knock on wood) or dramatic slump to be pulled from this big league roster.
Pineda, while snubbed by Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington for the All Star Game, has a real chance of contending for Cy Young honors this year. Among starting rookies, he stands alone.
Ackley will have a tougher time becoming part of the discussion. Being called up so late means he likely won’t compete with other rookies in counting numbers, always a big part of the ROTY conversation. Ackley is hitting better at the MLB level than he was in AAA, which may either signal performance above his ability or remarkably early adjustment to the big league level. That said, if he can continue to hit the way he has, he will easily be the best rookie position player in 2011.
If their numbers stay consistent throughout the rest of the year, voters may be left choosing between two young Mariners, and fans could be split between a couple of their own players. It would figure that two M’s would compete for the same award the same year, but regardless of the result, the future of this club has rarely looked brighter.