Dustin Ackley, Second Baseman?
Shannon Drayer ends the boredom with some real news – the Mariners are going to start working Dustin Ackley out at second base. This is something that had been speculated on pre-draft, as his college coach had publicly said that he though Ackley could make the transition, but the Mariners had been adamant that they saw him as an outfielder.
Clearly, something has changed since June. I don’t believe that the team was lying and intended to do this all along. Since getting him signed, they have either seen something in Ackley, or made a decision about the rest of the roster, that made this a more attractive option than it was this summer. The options of things that may have changed:
1. They weren’t impressed with Ackley’s outfield abilities in the AFL. I find this pretty unlikely. The reports I’ve heard on him from down there have been pretty positive, and you never expect a perfect transition to a position that a player doesn’t have much experience at. Toss in the fact that its a small sample from a bunch of games that don’t really mean anything, and I just can’t see the M’s deciding that he couldn’t hack it in the outfield yet.
2. They were so impressed with Ackley’s bat in the AFL that they’ve moved up their timetable for getting him to the majors. This is slightly more plausible than the above option, but still seems like a stretch. His AFL performance is exactly what everyone expected – a bunch of singles, some walks, and some doubles sprinkled in here and there. The M’s had scouted him extensively in college, so it’s hard to imagine that they saw something in his bat that they didn’t see during the spring, and the performance just wasn’t eye-opening. He was as advertised. That’s not impetus for a change.
3. They’re preparing to acquire a long term answer in left field – i.e. Curtis Granderson. This will get spun into that rumor, but I don’t buy it. I can’t see the M’s paying the price it will take to get Granderson when they already had Saunders, who potentially gives you a similar type of player when he develops.
4. They have decided that Michael Saunders has more of a future on this team than Jose Lopez does. This strikes me as the likely scenario. Lopez has long been rumored to be trade bait this winter, even though there aren’t many in-house options to replace him long term. If they trade Lopez, there’s no one keeping Ackley from a major league job when he’s ready. Saunders is younger, cheaper, under team control for significantly longer, left-handed, better defensively, more athletic… there are a ton of reasons why the M’s would rather have Ackley displace Lopez than Saunders. It’s not that hard to imagine that during one of the post-season meetings between the front office and the coaching staff, everyone decided that Saunders was a keeper and Lopez was a goner. That kind of decision would make an Ackley-to-2B shift more viable.
We’ll find out eventually, as the team puts the roster together. But if I was Jose Lopez, I’d be looking at how much it costs to break my lease.