Friday, June 17, 2011

Let the Dustin Ackley era finally begin!

By Kshell

The wait is finally over Dustin Ackley will be making his major league debut tonight as the Seattle Mariners take on the Philadelphia Phillies. Ackley the #2 pick overall in the 2009 baseball draft out of North Carolina will bring a buzz to Safeco Field. The Mariners are hoping the young second baseman will be a mainstay in their lineup for a decade. The hope is the Mariners can have a consistent all-star at a tough position to find offense. Ackley was rated the 11th best prospect in baseball going into the 2010 season and was the 12th best prospect in baseball heading into the 2011 season. Ackley isn't your normal call up like a Greg Halman or Carlos Peguero. Instead Ackley is on the same level as Justin Smoak or Michael Pineda and in fact was regarded as the better prospect than those two. Ackley needed just two years in the minor leagues and 118 games in triple A. Ackley didn't even play in single A jumping right to double A to make his debut. Now Ackley will add a nice buzz to the Mariners and a much needed stick as he is already their third best hitter. I'll break down what Ackley has done in the minors, how his ovation will be the loudest anyone has heard at Safeco in two years and who he is compared to in this following post.

While in the minor leagues Ackley has improved his average each stop of the way which is what you want to see in a prospect. The numbers in the minors don't matter as much as the improvement does. In double A West Tennessee last year Ackley hit .263/.389/.384 with two home runs, 28 RBI's and eight stolen bases. Plus he had 55 walks to 41 strikeouts in 82 games before being called up to Triple A Tacoma. Ackley was a big part of Rainiers PCL championship team the first for the city of Tacoma since the late 1960's. Last year in Tacoma Ackley hit .274/.338/.439 with five home runs and 23 RBI's. He also had 20 walks but 38 strikeouts in 52 games in triple A. Then this year he started off slow for the Rainiers again but destroyed Tacoma the last two months. Ackley finished his Rainiers career this season hitting .303/.421/.487 with nine home runs, 35 RBI's and seven steals. He also had 55 walks to just 38 K's in 66 games. Ackley as you can see isn't being rushed up here. Some think the Mariners might have waited a little bit too long. So for his minor league career which got better as he went along in only 200 games he hit .280/.387/.435 with 130 walks to 117 strikeouts. The guy is an on base machine and walks more than he strikes out. I don't know where manager Eric Wedge will hit him in the order but by the time this season ends he'll be batting second. There is a reason why the fans will be excited to see Dustin Ackley when he steps to the plate for the first time at Safeco.

I imagine Ackley will receive the loudest standing ovation by a Mariner since Ken Griffey Jr made his return to Safeco Field as a Mariner in 2009. Now Ackley won't receive an ovation close to what Griffey had but still the loudest one since then. Ackley will be facing a tough pitcher in his debut Roy Oswalt which Griffey did back in 1989 when he faced Dave Stewart of the Oakland A's. In Griffey's first at bat he hit a double off of Stewart. Then in Griffey's first ever home game in his first at bat in Seattle he hit a home run. I'm not holding Ackley up to that standard but it will be a magical moment when he steps to the plate. Very rare when you have the #2 pick overall in a baseball draft make his debut for your team. Ackley's debut will give the Mariners a shot in the arm and I'm sure the fans will give a loud standing ovation for Ackley. Regardless of what Ackley does tonight it will just feel nice to see Ackley up for the Mariners as him and Justin Smoak are the future of the Mariners offense. Ackley will be making his debut against a player he is often compared to.

The Mariners will be playing the Phillies which means they'll be facing perennial all-star Chase Utley. The talented second baseman is who many guys compare Ackley to and Peter Gammons went as far as saying it's an insult to Ackley to compare him to Utley. Now Utley is a five-time all-star and four-time silver slugger award winner as well. For his career he is hitting .293/.380/.513 with 180 home runs and 662 RBI's in 3,815 career at bats. Utley like Ackley was a former first round pick himself. Now I think Ackley will never have the power that Utley has but it does feel nice knowing the Mariners have a second baseman who can live at the All-Star game. Ackley will be a high on base percentage guy who is good at the plate as he rarely strikes out. The Mariners are hoping Ackley can eventually develope some more power and become their third hitter like Utley has been for the Phillies. It does feel good that on the fantasy homepage they are writing articles about Ackley being called up. He is a big time prospect with high expectations the buzz for tomorrow's game will be pretty special.

In conclusion, you'll be witnessing the future tomorrow as Michael Pineda takes the hill for the Mariners. Justin Smoak will be hitting third for the Mariners and Ackley will be making his debut. The Mariners are just a half game out of first place and Wedge is hoping Ackley can have the same impact that Buster Possey had last year for the San Francisco Giants. Adding Ackley will give Wedge more flexibility with his lineup as Adam Kennedy can come off the bench in late innings or Chone Figgins can come in as a pinch runner. Ackley realistictally is the Mariners third best hitter behind Ichiro and Smoak so adding him is a huge plus for this team. With the way the pitching has been if the Mariners get any offense at all they can make the playoffs. I'm happy that Ackley is making his debut as the team is playing well and there is some excitement. This isn't your typical top prospect being called up to sell tickets. Instead he is being called up to help this team right now and in the future. The game is going to be exciting and I'm happy to finally see Dustin Ackley in a Mariners uniform. Hopefully the Dustin Ackley era when it's all said and done includes multiple all-star games plus championship banners.

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