The Encouraging Start Of Dustin Ackley
When April ended, Dustin Ackley’s season line for Tacoma read as .211/.336/.305, and the skeptics came out of the woodwork. His slender frame makes it easy to explain poor performances as simply the product of a guy who doesn’t hit the ball all that hard, so even pointing out that his line was driven by a crazy low BABIP wouldn’t satisfy them.
Thankfully, Ackley has responded with a monstrous May performance – after yesterday’s four hit game in New Orleans, his line for the month is now at .344/.453/.590. That said, a rebound in BABIP and a small power spike over two weeks shouldn’t be enough to shift opinions on his timetable or his eventual ceiling, and just as the April concern was misguided and premature, so too would be calling for his promotion based on an even smaller sample of success.
However, there is one area where Ackley is showing real improvement, and it’s something that should be quite encouraging to the Mariners – his ability to hit left-handed pitching. Ackley struggled against southpaws in college and in his professional debut last year, showing little to no power and essentially hoping for a walk to get on base. This year, however, he’s doing quite well against LHPs, with a line of .256/.434/.436. He’s still drawing a ton of walks as usual, but he’s also showing a bit of power, as five of his 10 hits against southpaws have gone for extra bases.
Being able to handle lefties was one of the main things he needed to work on down in Tacoma this year (along with his defense at second base), and the fact that he’s showing progress in that area is great news for the M’s. Ackley’s never going to hit for the kind of power that will make him a masher against right-handed pitcher, so he can’t really afford to post a huge platoon split. He has the swing and the plate coverage to be the kind of hitter who can succeed against same-handed pitchers, but he just hadn’t done it up until this year.
We’re still only talking about 50 plate appearances, but he’s doing things against southpaws that he hasn’t done before. That’s a pretty good sign for the future, and gives more reason for optimism that he might be able to make an immediate impact once he comes up from Tacoma.