Ackley, Two Others Join Rainiers
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.