Ackley, Two Others Join Rainiers

Jay Yencich · July 14, 2010 at 5:21 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

In a move that didn’t really surprise anyone who saw the details of the Lee trade, which included one 2B Matt Lawson, the M’s promoted 2B Dustin Ackley to Tacoma. The news? It was Ackley, plus LHP Edward Paredes and RHP Anthony Varvaro.

Let’s talk Ackley first because the suspense would be too much to bear otherwise. Ackley started out the year doing pretty awful, hitting just .147/.289/.227 in April. The separation on the OBP was pretty awesome, but otherwise it did not seem that much was going in his favor. Of course, this was entirely an aberration because Ackley had a .180 BABIP in that month, and being a left-handed hitter possessing strong contact skills and a bit of speed, you should be expecting him to be regularly sitting above .300. In subsequent months that was the case and he was hitting .303/.475/.447 in May and .294/.387/.451 in June. The left-right splits aren’t that great, as he’s .225/.375/.270 against southpaws to .280/.395/.435 against right-handers, but it’s also his first pro year, he’s being rushed, and I will threaten internet violence on the first person who suggests that the M’s should now consider him to be a platoon player.

The defense hasn’t been coming along as well as everyone has hoped. Remember all of those lovely quotes in the press during spring training, fawning over him and claiming that he looked like so much of a natural out there that they mistook him for another player entirely? That hasn’t held up. He’s made thirteen errors in seventy games on defense and has struggled like you might expect any player would at a tough level learning a new position. We knew that it would be more defense holding him back than offense, so this should be surprising. I’m not worried. The M’s aren’t worried. Ackley himself doesn’t seem to be worried, as back in April he was helping Pineda learn English using a Rosetta Stone program. He’s about as focused as you could hope from a player when it comes down to it. He’ll get it in time.

Getting to the bullpen arms, we come to Varvaro, who dropped to the 12th round in ’05 due to Tommy John surgery. Varvaro was a starter his first three years before switching to relief full-time last season. He ended the year in the Arizona Fall League, where he started to show better command with a 13/3 K/BB in 13.1 innings. While not at the same levels for the D-Jaxx, he’s gone from walk rates of six and over seven in 2008 and 2009 to one under five this year, and if you knock out April from that span, it’s under four. Varvaro might still be a year off, so no one should be expecting him to step in soon, particularly in a high-leverage role. He is, however, trending positively at a tough level to do so.

Paredes shares some similarities with Varvaro in that he has good stuff, bad command, and gave up starting last season. While he’s had his struggles against right-handers, Paredes downright vicious against same-handed batters and had walked fewer than one and struck out more than twelve per nine innings, a separation he started to distinctly show last season. The knocks on him is that he’s almost certainly a strict left-on-left guy down the road and, contrary to Varvaro, his command has been trending worse after a great April. I wouldn’t expect him to step in next season either, but we’ll see I guess.

The only other moves that have gone along with this thus far are that Beavan, Lueke, and Lawson joined the Diamond-Jaxx and LHP Billy Traber was released in Tacoma. This means that someone’s getting forced out of the rotation to make way for Beavan, but the last two spots there have been in flux all season so it’s really no big deal.


27 Responses to “Ackley, Two Others Join Rainiers”

  1. Carson on July 14th, 2010 5:32 pm

    I would have loved for it to no happen so soon, but I think the kid is going to adjust well and be just fine.

    Will be interesting to see if he does well enough to get a speedy entrance to Seattle next season. Jack always says each player is on their own schedule, but I think this is a guy he wants up soon.

  2. GoldenGutz on July 14th, 2010 6:00 pm

    I think some people are overreacting to his bad start and bad defense. This is his first year in the Majors. He hit under .150 in April. For him to rebound to get his BA up 100 points and same with his OBP, tells me he is really mature and can bounce back from adversity. I’m not too worried about his defense because it’s his first year playing 2nd base.

  3. Breadbaker on July 14th, 2010 6:04 pm

    I don’t know about you, but my first reaction here was to look at the Rainiers schedule and try to figure out the first home game with Pineda starting and Ackley playing. I’m psyched!

  4. Jay Yencich on July 14th, 2010 6:25 pm

    I don’t know what the rotation is going to be like coming out of the break save that Ian Snell is up first. The “good news” (Marc knows that this really is not good news at all, and in reality, horrible news) is that the Rainiers are on the road until next Friday, so I should be able to note ahead of time and frontpage it if Pineda’s going to be starting in that four-game homestand. Otherwise, you’re waiting ’til the end of the month and that’s no fun.

  5. jordan on July 14th, 2010 6:25 pm

    Why are we rushing him so much?

    I would have had him start in A ball, and let him move up to AA this year. If he did fine, then start him at AAA next year and make him force his way to the bigs NEXT year. I don’t understand why we have to force him so fast.

  6. Jay Yencich on July 14th, 2010 6:29 pm

    He was the best college hitter of the past decade, posting .400 averages every year at UNC, and has hit every month since April. I think he’ll be okay.

  7. spankystout on July 14th, 2010 6:46 pm

    Ackley has more walks than strikeouts. As Jay pointed out, Ackleys BABIP is stabilizing, and he isn’t being challenged all that much in AA. Even with his difficulty hitting lefties he is still getting on base at a .375 clip against them. He isn’t going to hit with the power he showed in college. But he will be great in the leadoff spot, or second.

  8. ajrosberg on July 14th, 2010 6:56 pm

    Out of the next five games expected starters, Hensley is the only starter from last half that is not listed as probable. Then again, they may surprise everyone and start him Monday.

  9. philosofool on July 14th, 2010 7:01 pm

    I would have had him start in A ball, and let him move up to AA this year. If he did fine, then start him at AAA next year and make him force his way to the bigs NEXT year. I donโ€™t understand why we have to force him so fast.

    The thing is, unless you insist that he work on hitting for power, he’s far too good to learn anything at single A. He’d be like .350/.550/.450 at single and basically just be waiting for a change to see real secondary stuff.

    The M’s have done fine with him so far. He basically looks like he has 70/80 (now/ceiling) on-base ability, which means you have to move him up to challenge him.

    However, Ackley seems to be hitting a lot of ground balls. Is this a worry? I would really like to see him hitting line-drives because I think it’s probably important to his ability to slug at all in the majors, given that I don’t see him hitting more than 10-15 HR a year at this point. Thoughts?

  10. Jay Yencich on July 14th, 2010 7:03 pm

    These are good points, but I’ll point out that Ackley did not even begin to hit for power at any special clip until his final year at UNC. While the Utley comps are way, way out there, I believe that he will eventually have a power outburst three or four years into his MLB tenure. His power isn’t so much a product of his build so much as his swing mechanics and skills with the bat. It’s sort of like Ichiro. A guy his size, we don’t think of as being able to hit HRs as far out as he’s shown in BP, but he can. The same is true of Ackley. Once he gets comfortable, he’ll slug a bit, and until that time he’ll be a slap-hitting type.

    Just my own speculations.

  11. spankystout on July 14th, 2010 7:17 pm

    What is Ackleys GB%?

  12. Jay Yencich on July 14th, 2010 7:18 pm


  13. spankystout on July 14th, 2010 7:25 pm

    Thanks Jay….

    I wonder if Ackley gliding up in the box during his swing is resulting in more GBs? Just a thought.

  14. lailaihei on July 14th, 2010 7:26 pm

    Do you think Paredes could be death to lefties at the big league level? Something like circa 2005 George Sherrill? I love having a lefty destroyer in the ‘pen.

  15. robbbbbb on July 14th, 2010 8:19 pm

    You know, with platoon splits like that Ackley should be a…

    No, I can’t. Not with a straight face. Fer crying out loud, the dude’s still got an above-average OBP with a .220 BA against lefties. He’ll be fine.

  16. msfanmike on July 14th, 2010 8:30 pm

    Did anybody else catch any of that AAA All Star game on the MLB Network?

    Ka’aihu (name, sp?) has a nice swing and looks like a hitter (good call Dave). He is not “fat” though … not sure who said he was, but I know somebody did mention that he was “fat and slow.” It doesn’t matter now … we have more than enough 1B’s to concern ourselves with.

    Jesus Montero: I saw his last 3 innings behind the plate and only one at bat. Did anybody else notice his receiving (primarily hands) skills, body shape (at 20), his throw to 2B on a steal attempt and his 8th inning AB? Were these in any way a representative sample of anything he is purported to be able to do (or not do). Has anybody out there ever seen him play (in person or on TV?).

    Just curious as to what you guys might have seen/noticed.

    A few hard throwing pitchers that look like they are less than a phone call away from the show too. That lefty from the Braves org (shit, can’t remember his name) is going to be good!

    P.S. Jack made the right trade

  17. nathaniel dawson on July 14th, 2010 9:02 pm

    Something like circa 2005 George Sherrill?

    Speaking of George Sherrill, the 2010 version just got put on waivers by the Dodgers. I doubt if any team will claim him, but he’ll land somewhere. He might even have a chance to help a contender the rest of the year.

  18. greymstreet on July 14th, 2010 9:11 pm

    Hey Jay – do you know who else is being released to make room for the three new guys? Also, is there a website that shows expected rotations for minor league teams? It would be really helpful trying to figure out when to go see Pineda. Though I guess a post on USSM is just as good ๐Ÿ™‚ Thanks for that!

  19. Jay Yencich on July 14th, 2010 9:19 pm

    Billy Traber is the only release I’ve seen so far.

    There aren’t really many sources of expected rotations outside of the Lumberkings, who offer up their press notes publicly. The best way of figuring it out is just to trace back five days in the team’s schedule and see who went up then, or memorize them if it comes to that. That’s how I’ve always run it, but I should know anyway by the Monday wrap when Pineda’s up in Tacoma next. There’s an 80% chance he’s in the homestand at least.

    And for the time being, yes, I see Paredes being a weapon against left-handers on his way up, should he make it to the big leagues.

  20. wallmoon on July 14th, 2010 9:40 pm

    With Paredes and Varvaro, both relievers, being promoted to AAA what does that say about former first round draft pick (andcurrent AA resident) Josh Fields’ future (if any)?

  21. shortbus on July 14th, 2010 10:43 pm

    A couple of numbers I like are 6’1″ and 185 lbs. which suggests that Ackley will fill out some yet. He’s 22 and men don’t reach their full growth until around 25 or 26. I think we’ll see some power arrive about the time his skills are peaking.

    2013-16 could be good years for Mr. Ackley. But this team can probably use a guy with his contact and pitch recognition next year…if he can play defense.

  22. Utis on July 14th, 2010 11:39 pm

    Sigh, it’s looking like 2-3 years before Ackley and Smoak hit their peak and can be counted on to be significant contributors on a contending team. The rebuild may take some time.

  23. shortbus on July 14th, 2010 11:57 pm

    I really wonder if Ichiro will stick it out, or get sick of the fail and head home.

  24. bookbook on July 15th, 2010 1:35 am

    Ackley and Smoak both look to me like they can be contributors on a contending team as soon as next year. It’ll probably be 3 years before they can be stars on a contending team.

    With luck, the Mariners will have a really nice core in 2013.

  25. The Ancient Mariner on July 15th, 2010 6:00 am

    Yeah, the core of the lineup in 2013 looks good, but Z will need to work a bit on the rotation.

  26. EthanN on July 15th, 2010 12:31 pm

    I’m hoping the M’s are kind of like the Rays in the way that a lot of their prospects all blossomed at the same time. If so, I’m sure the future versions of us are going to be happy people.

  27. Jay Yencich on July 15th, 2010 2:46 pm

    Yeah, the core of the lineup in 2013 looks good, but Z will need to work a bit on the rotation.

    Projecting three years out is super silly.

    Here was our projected ’10 lineup from Baseball America’s ’07 Prospect Handbook:

    Catcher Kenji Johjima
    First Base Richie Sexson
    Second Base Jose Lopez
    Third Base Adrian Beltre
    Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt
    Left Field Chris Snelling
    Center Field Ichiro Suzuki
    Right Field Adam Jones
    Designated Hitter Jeff Clement
    No. 1 Starter Felix Hernandez
    No. 2 Starter Brandon Morrow
    No. 3 Starter Tony Butler
    No. 4 Starter Ryan Feierabend
    No. 5 Starter Chris Tillman
    Closer J.J. Putz

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