Jose Bautista hit 54 home runs in just over 550 at-bats in 2010. The Seattle Mariners couldn’t even double that total in over 5,400 at-bats last season. The Mariners offense was historically bad, so bad that four teams had more home runs at the All-Star break than the Mariners had by the time they’d earned their AL-leading 101st loss.
Their .652 team OPS beat only Houston, but at least the Astros can blame their pitchers. Russell Branyan led the team with 15 homers and he only played 57 games in that ugly Mariners teal. Ichiro Suzuki had 214 hits but still scored fewer runs than Mark Reynolds, who had only 99 hits. No wonder they traded Cliff Lee for Justin Smoak.
But the Smoak Monster alone isn’t enough. The Mariners’ current projected starting infield includes Smoak, Chone Figgins and a pair of irrelevant J. Wilson‘s (Jack and Josh, but they hit more like Jack and Jill) who combined for 16 home runs last season...and Figgins, Thing 1 and Thing 2 combined to hit three...in 1,156 at-bats!
And that’s why you need to know Dustin Ackley. While the 6'1", 184-pound second baseman won’t be making any Home Run Derby appearances anytime soon, he is as polished as prospects come. He’s disciplined at the plate, hits for good average, steals some bases and knocks a few homers. Some claim his uber-upside comparison is Chase Utley, but even in the very likely event he falls short of that, he still projects as one of the better offensive second basemen in the game.
Personally, I see a lot of Dustin Pedroia in him, statistically speaking. Ackley struggled mightily in his first minor league season split between AA and AAA. His .267/.368/.407 triple-slash is rather underwhelming for someone of Ackley’s caliber, but the good OBP underscores the patience and discipline he has. He also managed seven home runs and 10 SB in 501 ABs with an impressive 79:75 K:BB ratio.
Will Ackley start at second base for Seattle on Opening Day?
Ackley was then named the MVP of the 2010 Arizona Fall League, finishing .424/.581/.758 with four homers and five steals in just 20 games. His K:BB ratio of 11:26 is unheard of, and since 2005 his 1.338 OPS was second only to White Sox prospect Tyler Flowers' incredible 1.433 OPS in the 2008 AFL.
With Jill, sorry, Josh Wilson currently holding down the M’s third base job, Ackley will have every opportunity to win the starting gig during spring training, forcing Figgins back to third. According to Jim Bowden of FOXsports.com, Ackley will open the season as the Mariners’ starting second baseman, only adding to what is already a deceptively deep position in 2011.
In all formats, particularly deep leagues and keeper leagues, Ackley is worth a late-round flier. Unfortunately, he still has no one to drive him in no matter where he bats in the Seattle lineup, but he could be a good source of batting average and stolen bases or as a matchups play throughout the season. Most of his value is likely for 2012 and beyond.
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