Dustin Ackley, Outfielder In Training
It’s not that I didn’t like Nick Franklin. I’ve thought of Franklin as a pretty good prospect all along, a guy capable of eventually helping an organization move forward. But for a super long time, I thought Franklin was obvious trade bait. For a long time, maybe he was obvious trade bait. Franklin wasn’t going to be able to be a long-term shortstop, and the Mariners already had this Dustin Ackley embedded at second. Franklin made the most sense as a guy who’d go away in order to bring back a different guy. But that supposed that Ackley wouldn’t be bad, and then Ackley was bad, and then Franklin became the Mariners’ second baseman, and now look where we are. This is, officially, happening:
Interesting Tacoma lineup today. Dustin Ackley in left field, OF instructor Brant Brown here to work with him.
— Mike Curto (@CurtoWorld) June 12, 2013
What this isn’t is a long-term strategy shift. The Mariners haven’t committed themselves to Franklin as the second baseman and to Ackley as an outfielder. Plans change as circumstances change, and that’s plainly evident from this very Ackley example. We don’t know what’s going to be going on a year from now. This is just an idea being put into execution.
But it’s pretty easy to interpret. Franklin has done well so far, and the Mariners like Brad Miller as a shortstop. The outfield, meanwhile, is threadbare, and Ackley had collegiate outfield experience before he had Tommy John surgery, from which he’s obviously recovered. People were wondering how the Mariners would find room for Ackley and Franklin at the same time, in the event Ackley got things fixed. Here’s your answer. Ackley might not be transitioning to the outfield full-time, but he’s at least going to increase his versatility so that he can play the outfield in a pinch. He’s done it, and while he won’t have a rocket-launcher arm, Ackley should be able to cover a lot of ground. That’s the important bit.
So now Ackley is in Tacoma working on his hitting and a new defensive position, while Jesus Montero is doing the same. For Ackley, at least, it should be somewhat familiar, so this shouldn’t be jarring, even if it’s been years. Ackley turned himself into a plus defensive second baseman so in that regard this might be questionable, but Franklin wasn’t going to become an outfielder himself, and Ackley could be good out there too. If the Mariners end up having to play Franklin at second and Ackley in left.
Which, yeah. Let’s not all get ahead of ourselves. Franklin hasn’t cemented himself as a quality big leaguer, and neither has Ackley. Franklin’s new and Ackley’s in the minors again after falling flat on his face. The ideal situation would be that Franklin and Ackley both succeed for a long time at these respective positions, but we can’t assume that, nor can we write off the possibility of a trade. Maybe Ackley scoots back to second. Maybe Ackley disappears, even though not long ago that would’ve been almost unthinkable.
Getting Ackley some reps in the outfield was a pretty obvious decision, and now it’s been made. Going forward, this could have pretty apparent implications. At present, consider that Dustin Ackley has been bumped off by Nick Franklin. Consider that, a year ago, Ackley was surpassed by Kyle Seager. In the positive light, Franklin has really emerged. In the negative light, Ackley sure is sinking. This could certainly work, but for a long time it would’ve been nuts to think it could come to this.
The Mariners could really use some outfielders. They might just have one, in an infielder. It’s worth trying. Why the hell not?