We’ve been hearing it for too long: Dustin Ackley will figure it out. He’s about to turn the corner. He’s figuring himself out.
Since his rookie campaign that has not been the case. After the All-Star break in 2013 he was one of less than a dozen AL hitters to bat over .300. But he struggled at the start of 2014, his average dipping as low as .214 before the month of July.
With the Mariners so involved in trade talks, Ackley’s name has been murmured as a throw-in, ‘change of scenery’ type player. Many teams in baseball think is potential is still untapped.
I feel the same– though I do remain biased because Ackley is one of my favorite Mariners.
Since his name started percolating in Mariners trade rumors in early July, his numbers have skyrocketed. Since July 1st his triple slash has been .373/.393/.475 in 59 at-bats. He’s scored 5 runs (which isn’t many, though the M’s have scored only 55 this month), driven in 5 runs and hit 6 doubles.
In short, Ackley has been hitting like he used to in college.
But it isn’t even just his offense. Since manager Lloyd McClendon cemented Ackley in left field during Spring Training, Ackley’s defensive skills and confidence have improved dramatically. In 83 games (all in left field) this season, Ackley has a 0.7 defensive WAR. In 2013 over 4 combined positions he posted a -0.2 WAR.
Even this last week, he did this:
— MLB (@MLB) July 22, 2014
So why not trade Ackley at the deadline? Because you’d still be selling far too low. His average has jumped to .245– which is far from great– but he hasn’t sustained anything over more than a month or two. By trading him now, the team will net little for his potential. He would be a mere deal-sweetner, another name on the list who is considered Major League ready.
Let him play out the season. If he keeps hitting? Maybe he can be that left fielder of the future: he’s only first year arbitration eligible this offseason. Maybe he becomes a major piece in a big offseason trade to keep this team competitive in 2015.
If he bottoms out? Well, he really can’t be sold any lower. It would inevitably come that he has in fact figured it out, and when he’s traded he would become a .290 hitter for some other team. That always seems to be the fate of players the Mariners sell low.
The Mariners need to keep Ackley. He still has potential, unlike Justin Smoak who continues to grossly disappoint.
This team needs offense, and as of today Ackley can hit: he’s 4th on the team in RBI. If a trade is made for a hitter, sell guys like Nick Franklin or other minor prospects who will not only net a higher return but who also don’t have a place on the current roster.
Play it smart, Trader Jack, and keep Ackley around. Like the 2014 Mariners, he may pleasantly surprise you.