The Mariners have a perfect blend of players on their roster. You have the grizzly veterans in Ichiro Suzuki, Miguel Olivo and Kevin Millwood, and you have the youngsters with high ceilings in Jesus Montero, Justin Smoak and Kyle Seager.
But in my mind one man stands out from the group, that man is Dustin Ackley.
While some of the younger guys are still trying to find themselves in the bigs, Dustin Ackley already looks comfortable.
Most of the youth on the Mariners roster is going to be hit-and-miss on whether or not they will become established starters, but Ackley has the "it" factor.
You know this guy is going to be great.
I could go on to describe his smooth swing, or his uncanny defense, but you've already heard it before.
Not only is he going to be a great baseball player, but he also is going to become a household name in the Northwest.
When the casual fan thinks of the Mariners, he thinks of Ichiro Suzuki. When the casual fan goes to the ballpark, they don't really notice that Smoak's bat has been heating up, or Kawasaki has been a great pinch-runner, they want to see Ichiro.
But Ichiro Suzuki isn't getting any younger, and pretty soon he will have to pass the torch. I predict that Ichiro will keep playing two years after this 2012 campaign.
By that time Ackley will be 26 years old, and in all likely hood, he will be an MLB star. When I watch him play I see him developing into a Chase Utley type of player over time.
Something that the Mariners haven't had in a long time is a batter that can strike fear into the hearts of opposing pitcher. And no, Adrian Beltre and Raul Ibanez don't count.
Ackely has the ability to hit the long ball, but his strength is his swing, which naturally generates frozen rope line-drives all over the ballpark, something just as dangerous.
Felix Hernandez is still going to be great, but he can only play every fifth day, Ackley will continue to be an everyday player for hopefully a very long time—just like Ichiro has over the last 11 years.
As the face of a franchise, you need a clean image. This guy's head is screwed on right, you know he isn't going to be a clubhouse cancer.
As a fan, you can't help but be excited about this guy. The Mariners have done a good job developing him at just the right pace, not bringing him up too early.
Ackley is the right guy to lead a new era in Mariners baseball.
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