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Past, Present and Future – Dustin Ackley


A few weeks ago I started a series called Past, Present and Future, and featured Jesus Montero in the debut issue. This time I will talk about Dustin Ackley.

For those who don’t know, I basically do what the title says. Talk about the player’s career to this point, as well as give my opinion on their future career. Keep in mind the future is just an opinion, but I will try to use what I have seen from the player and what the stats say to support what I say.

Aug 31, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners second baseman Dustin Ackley (13) turns the double play after the force out on Los Angeles Angels left fielder Mark Trumbo (44) during the 3rd inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

The Past

Dustin Ackley was drafted 2nd overall in 2009 by the Seattle Mariners. He was primarily an outfielder in college, but was moved to first base after having Tommy John surgery the year before. He was drafted as an outfielder, then quickly moved to second base due to an opening at that spot in the organization. The move garnered some mixed reviews, but reports were that he had picked up the position quickly, which we have found to be true. It was a brilliant move by the organization in recognizing there was a hole in the organization, and finding someone who’s bat and natural abilities fit the position well.

Dustin played pretty well overall throughout his minor league career. In 2010 he split time between AA and AA, posting a combined .351 wOBA and 107 wRC+ in 134 games. He also did a great job limiting his strikeouts and maximizing his walks with a 13.5 K% and 12.5 BB% for the year.

He expanded on a solid debut season by putting up an astouding .404 wOBA and 130 wRC+ en route to a June call up. He continued to hit well in his first taste of the bigs, posting a .337 wOBA and 117 wRC+ in the first 90 games of his big league career. His K rate was a little too high for my liking at 21%, but other than that it was a solid season.

As for last year, most of us know it was a different story. His wOBA and wRC+ dropped to .274 and 75 respectively. He struggled the whole year, and a lot of people lost hope. Despite what you may think, he struck out less than he did in his rookie year (18.6%). He just wasn’t making solid contact,  and had a pretty low BABIP.

He was very good defensively though, and got some recognition in the Gold Glove voting. The position change turned out to be a very good move, and I think he should stay at 2nd base.

 The Present

Ackley has been underwhelming to this point to say the least. His 2012 campaign was a little concerning, and I expected more. But I do think he can and will turn it around.

He needs to get back to his game, which is gap hitting, limiting strikeouts, and maximizing walks. Safeco didn’t have as extreme of an effect on him as it did others, but he was still better on the road than at home. I’m not sure how much the fence changes will help him though, as he isn’t a power guy, and a bigger outfield gives him more gaps to aim for. I don’t think it will hurt him either though.

I am confident that he can get back to that, and I still think he will be a solid player, but maybe not quite as good as we thought and hoped for.

The Future

Overall, I haven’t lost much hope for Dustin Ackley despite the down year. He has hit wherever he has gone, and I have no reason to doubt that he will continue to do so. I am not expecting quite as much as I was before, which was a perennial .300/.360/.420 type guy. He could very well still get the that point, if he makes some changes.

I think he needs to close up his stance a little so he can reach the outside pitch more consistently. Although the numbers say his outside contact numbers were about the same as they were in 2011, it seemed like that’s where he struggled. Pitchers picked up on that, and were going up and away frequently to get him to either watch it go (which he does too much) or swing and miss.

There is a point where your eye is too good, and Ackley might be there. He is a talented hitter, and needs to just let it loose sometimes. Kyle Seager said Dustin hasn’t changed his stance since they kids, but it may be time he does so. Just close it up a little, and be a little less patient. Welcome walks, but don’t look for them.

If he does this, I think he will become a very good hitter, maybe as soon as next year. He is just too talented to stay where he was last year. I envision a .275/.345/.400 (.335 wOBA, 115 wRC+) line next year, very similar to that of his rookie year. From there, I expect further improvement, and think he will see a .285/.350/.415 (.345 wOBA, 125 wRC+) guy for years to come. That, combined with his above average speed and defense at 2nd base should make for a very valuable player.