Immediate Expectations For Ackley

Dave · May 19, 2011 at 6:49 am · Filed Under Mariners 

My newest post is up at Brock and Salk’s blog, and it deals with how quickly we can expect Dustin Ackley to become a good Major League hitter. I’ll be on the air with the 710 ESPN guys at 9:30 am to talk about Ackley and the M’s.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the new piece – you can read the rest at their blog.

You’ve probably heard that Dustin Ackley is on fire down in Tacoma. After a tough April, Ackley is hitting .377/.482/.638 in May, and an even more impressive .463/.540/.707 in his last 10 games. He’s dominating Pacific Coast League pitchers, and it won’t be long before the Mariners give him a chance to show what he can do in the big leagues.

Given all the busted prospects the M’s have had over the last few years and the continuing struggles of most of the young hitters on the roster right now, I wouldn’t blame you for exercising a little skepticism about what Ackley might be able to do over the rest of the season. A lot of players tear up the minors only to face a reality check once they get to the big leagues, and gaudy numbers in Triple-A do not always translate to immediate success.

However, there are reasons to believe that Ackley may not experience the same growing pains the Mariners have had to endure with the likes of Michael Saunders, Jeff Clement, and Wladimir Balentien. Unlike the other three, Ackley succeeds using high level hand-eye coordination that makes up for a lack of big time power. While he has six home runs for the Rainiers already, he’s never going to be much of a slugger, and his value at the plate will come by racking up singles, doubles, and walks.

Over the last 20 years, players with this kind of high walk, low strikeout approaches have often made seamless transition to the Major Leagues. In 164 at-bats for Tacoma, Ackley has drawn 33 walks and struck out just 25 times. Here’s how a few other similar hitters have fared in that category before getting promoted:

Comments

22 Responses to “Immediate Expectations For Ackley”

  1. philosofool on May 19th, 2011 7:34 am

    There’s no chance Ackley wins rookie of the year, but I will forgive Michael Pineda for robbing him.

  2. tubbabubba22 on May 19th, 2011 7:35 am

    I pray that you are right Dave. That would be incredibly refreshing to see.

  3. tubbabubba22 on May 19th, 2011 7:37 am

    Thinking about next year gets me EXTREMELY excited. Our pitching staff has potential to be excellent. And I think that the development of Smoak and Ackley coupled with losing a few overpaid players, could actually give the mariners a decent offense!

  4. Nate on May 19th, 2011 7:39 am

    And I really doubt anyone is looking for a ROY candidate in Ackley. I think everyone would love to just see some respectable numbers.

  5. Carson on May 19th, 2011 8:04 am

    Thinking about next year gets me EXTREMELY excited. Our pitching staff has potential to be excellent. And I think that the development of Smoak and Ackley coupled with losing a few overpaid players, could actually give the mariners a decent offense!

    Not to mention payroll flexibility for the first time in Zduriencik’s tenure. It’ll be nice to see what he comes up with.

    Great piece, Dave. I had been thinking the same about Ackley’s first call up, though it was more on a hunch. This is nice supporting evidence.

  6. seattlesonsofbaseball on May 19th, 2011 8:39 am

    The off season next year is going to be a lot of fun, I think. If Ackley is called up within the next two weeks, comes out of the gate super hot, and if Guti starts to swing the bat like the Guti of 2009, don’t be surprised if Jack Z. tries to get a power bat NOW, like a Prince Fielder. The pitching is one of the best in the league, we just need some hitting. If Ichiro and Smoak stay consistent, Figgins warms up, Guti plays to his potential, and Ackley is who we think he is, then one power bat might be all we need to make a run this year. Texas hasn’t run away with the division, neither has Anaheim. I’m not expecting us to do any of the things I wrote, but I sure wouldn’t be angry if we did! Next year I think we’ll see just what Jackie Z. is planning for this organization. All the skeptics and Jack Z. haters will be surprised, I’m sure!

  7. bigpoppa01 on May 19th, 2011 8:54 am

    My only question is this…Where does Ackley hit in the lineup? I would guess second, but as I recall Figgins had a hissy fit last time he was dropped in the lineup.

  8. everett on May 19th, 2011 9:04 am

    Ackley is probably hitting no. 2 by sometime after the All-Star break, but I’ve got to think he’ll start off low, just because that’s the way managers normally think.

  9. robbbbbb on May 19th, 2011 9:39 am

    Alex Rodriguez hit ninth in the order on opening day in 1996. He was hitting second by mid-May. Managers tend to start rookies low until they prove themselves.

  10. eternal on May 19th, 2011 10:04 am

    I’ve heard people talk about trading vargas on the radio. With this guy under club control for a couple more years, it seems like this would be a bad thing to do unless you could get a boatload of awesome prospects at the trade deadline. Having said that, the rotation is pretty good right now so it is probably the one place where you could find a piece to replace him (move pineda to #2 and find a #5 in the market) and his value might never be higher if he keeps it up until the trade deadline.

    Is this an option? At what offer would you trade Vargas and do other MLB GMs value his skill set or are people thinking he’s just having a good run right now but not a long term solution? Is skill set doesn’t seem particularly sexy…but it seems to work.

  11. marc w on May 19th, 2011 10:15 am

    Hmmm. Do we know if this holds true overall, or did it just hold true for these guys?

    I keep thinking of Brad Emaus, who had 50BBs and 50Ks last year (at 2B!) in AAA and won a starting job for the Mets this spring. He was DFAd before May rolled around.

    Daric Barton had 78 walks to 69 Ks as a slender 1B at age 21 in AAA, and, a great September call-up aside, stumbled in his first extended MLB trial.

    Cliff Pennington put up 54 walks to 34 strikeouts in a partial AAA season in 2008, then struggled in his call-up. Had a decent 2009, but a poor 2010. Given his position, I suppose you could argue he made a “smooth transition” but that’s basically letting his defense/position do the work.

    Jarrett Hoffpauir’s been doing this for years, and can’t get a sniff in MLB.

    American hero Sam Fuld’s done the same, and incredible week or two for the 2011 Rays aside, he’s struggled in MLB. He may be too old for the list, but hey, he’s at his peak and still isn’t hitting.

    Does Kila Ka’aihue count, or is he too big?

    I don’t mention these to say that Ackley will suck, just that I’m not sure what this template actually tells us. Are there categories within it – do high SLG guys do better? Do the guys who walk a TON do better than others, or is pure contact rate a better predictor? I have no idea.
    I think Ackley will be a good player, but I think he may struggle out of the gate. I think that because he’s needed a bit of an adjustment period in his last two transitions, and because I think pitchers will pound the zone until he shows he can make them pay. Right now, he’s making AAA pitchers pay, but that took time. Hopefully, his moderate struggles were all due to his approach, and now that that’s sorted, he’ll be fine. But I think he’s going to have to adjust to a new group of pitchers, and guys with much better command than he’s seen recently.

  12. Dave on May 19th, 2011 10:17 am

    There’s no real point comparing Ackley to AAAA players. There’s a reason I kept it to guys who debuted between ages 22-24 – to weed out the minor league veterans who lacked actual talent and just drew walks through passivity.

  13. SonOfZavaras on May 19th, 2011 10:26 am

    If Ackley is called up within the next two weeks, comes out of the gate super hot, and if Guti starts to swing the bat like the Guti of 2009, don’t be surprised if Jack Z. tries to get a power bat NOW, like a Prince Fielder.

    I just don’t think Prince Fielder is either here or there for us. And I don’t want him. The cost to get him is a price we can’t pay, in terms of assets and cash. And the guy stands a real good chance of being a player with his best years behind him by the age of 29-30. Maybe sooner.

    I’m not expecting us to do any of the things I wrote, but I sure wouldn’t be angry if we did!

    I’d be angry if we mortgaged the plan we’ve been following for two seasons-plus for half-a-season of Fielder.

    I suspect that if we have a shot at this division title this year, Jack Z will have something far more Jedi and clever in mind than acquiring Fielder. If there’s one thing we’ve seen consistently from Zduriencik, it’s out-of-the-box thinking on personnel moves.

  14. jordan on May 19th, 2011 10:30 am

    Any chance we slide Wilson back to.short when we make room for Ackley. I am getting tired of watching Brendan Ryan hit. Wilson is a better hitter.

  15. marc w on May 19th, 2011 10:42 am

    “There’s a reason I kept it to guys who debuted between ages 22-24″

    Yes, and Emaus, Barton, Pennington fit the bill. Hoffpauir would, if anyone gave him a shot, but they didn’t, so he’s aged out. Fuld, yeah, he’s older. If you’d like a replacement, how about Michael Brantley?

    I’m not picking guys like Timmons and Dan Johnson. Just saying that there are some similar guys who don’t seem to make the jump, especially right away. If Ackley put up Barton’s 2010 line (minus some Ks), we’d be ecstatic. But it took him a while to reach that level.

  16. CarpCarter on May 19th, 2011 10:42 am

    If Ackley is able to make a smooth transition from AAA to the majors, which I think he will (at the plate anyway), I hope Wedge has the balls to reward production over presumption and put him in the #2 spot.

    Ichiro, Ackley, Smoak, and a healthy Guti is such a beautiful top half that it makes me want to cry after the garbage lineups we’ve been trotting out for the past year and change.

    Send Figgins to the eighth or ninth spot where his pathetic average, rally-killing at-bats, and awful contract belong.

  17. Carson on May 19th, 2011 10:43 am

    There’s a reason I kept it to guys who debuted between ages 22-24 – to weed out the minor league veterans who lacked actual talent and just drew walks through passivity.

    And, apparently, you’d know. Heh. That was a funny ending to the 710 segment.

  18. CarpCarter on May 19th, 2011 10:45 am

    Also, I wish people would stop speculating about (i.e. hoping for/demanding) Prince Fielder. It’s not going to happen for so many reasons.

  19. Chris_From_Bothell on May 19th, 2011 10:53 am

    I’d be angry if we mortgaged the plan we’ve been following for two seasons-plus for half-a-season of Fielder.

    I also wonder how the Ms would keep the clubhouse happy – which they seem to kind of care about – if the Ms brought in someone like Fielder. Fielder couldn’t play 1st due to Smoak, and couldn’t play DH without bailing on Cust, who is just coming around with the bat and is by some accounts reasonably popular in the clubhouse.

    Same applies to trying to get someone in at other positions. A better catcher is giving up on Olivo, a true talent in LF ends any kind of look at the AAA guys, a better third baseman is eating 2 years salary on Figgins, etc.

    It seems like it’s nigh-impossible to see any change in what we have now, this season, apart from whatever scraps Zduriencik can get for Jack Wilson.

  20. Dave on May 19th, 2011 10:57 am

    Yes, and Emaus, Barton, Pennington fit the bill. Hoffpauir would, if anyone gave him a shot, but they didn’t, so he’s aged out. Fuld, yeah, he’s older. If you’d like a replacement, how about Michael Brantley?

    Emaus is 25 and was a Rule 5 pick. He’s not even remotely similar to Ackley.

    Barton is a decent comp – if you combine 2007/2008 into one year (it’s 158 games played), he hit .243/.343/.388, good for a wRC+ of 97. Coming up at 22 and being league average right out of the gate puts him right in line with the rest of the guys listed.

    Brantley sort of works, though he has even less power than Ackley and his good BB/K is more of a function of aggressive contact than working counts and drawing walks. And, it’s worth pointing out that through his first 600 PAs in the majors, he’s got a 90 wRC+. I don’t think he’s really helping prove your point either.

  21. MrZDevotee on May 19th, 2011 11:07 am

    Carson/Dave-
    Yeah, I enjoyed the “I had a .900 OB%” banter on the radio show, too…

    I think we should be realistic about what ‘starts hot’ means when he comes up… Ackley has shown a knack for sort of “soaking it all in” before attacking the pitching he’s facing… He did it last year (started slowly) and did it this year too.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see him simply take a LOT of pitches the first month he comes up, try to make solid contact on different pitches, and post something around .220 for awhile. Then when he flips the switch and gets in attack mode we’ll see the numbers bump up. It’s what he’s shown so far at every level, so it seems to be a process he goes through (if so, Wedge is gonna LOVE this guy):

    So (June): Sit back and take it all in…
    then…
    (July) Attack!

    Can’t wait… And I agree with the comments that a real Major League level lineup is starting to take shape:

    Ichiro
    Figgins (and later Ackley)
    Smoak
    Cust (and his upgrade next year?)
    Guty
    Peguero
    Olivo
    Ryan
    Ackley (and later Figgins)

    (If only we could get Figgy to realize batting 9th isn’t always an insult– it’s sort of the “6th man” in the NBA… he starts the 2nd round of rallies)

  22. marc w on May 19th, 2011 1:44 pm

    “He’s got a 90 wRC+. I don’t think he’s really helping prove your point either.”

    The guys you listed averaged a 107. Erstad wasn’t great, but that was in 250 PAs.

    Watching the game today, I thought of another cautionary tale: Alberto Callaspo.

    Again, I don’t think Ackley’s going to be bad, just saying that we don’t know.

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