Originally written March 14, 2013 on NorthWest Sports Beat:
It is Ackley’s Breakout Time! The 2009 number 2 overall pick has been fine, but the Mariners need more than that in 2013. In the land of the rising sun, where the 2012 season began for the Seattle Mariners a year ago, 2B Dustin Ackley kicked off his sophomore season with a bang. In the 4th inning, Ackley took A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy to dead center for his first home run of the season. Unfortunately, this was probably Ackley’s best moment of the year, instead of the first of what should have been a lot more. At this point in his career, Ackley has been more consistent with quality commercials than producing quality play at the plate. He is still young, and has the opportunity this season to develop without the weight of a franchise on his shoulders. 1. Time This is the ultimate cop-out for someone to write as a positive for Ackley, but it is the number one reason that he could produce this season. Baseball fans have been very spoiled recently by rookies producing in ways they never have before. Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Craig Kimbrel and other young players are getting called up and producing at record levels. Ackley has not set records, and his inside-out swings have produced the way most 23 and 24-year-olds produce at the Major League level: average. 2. Plate Discipline The biggest surprise for Mariners fans has come with Ackley’s poor batting average, dropping from .273 as a rookie to .226 a year ago, but his strikeout-to-walk ratio is more cause for concern in a leadoff man. M’s fans can expect a breakout in 2013 Throughout the spring, manager Eric Wedge has tried a bunch of people leading off, if he sticks with Ackley, that means Dustin has shown improvement swinging at good pitches over bad ones, and drawing more walks. Adjusting to the best pitching in the world takes time for some hitters, and some never adjust. It is hard to believe that Ackley will never adjust to this level, and M’s fans can expect a breakout in 2013. 3. Defensive Stability Unless Ackley is asked to DH occasionally, he will play 2B all year. With the additions of Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales, Ackley will not be called on to relieve Justin Smoak at first base. He is not the league’s greatest defensive 2B, but his double play numbers alongside Brendan Ryan were the best in baseball a year ago. 4. Consistency When looking at Ackley’s splits from a year ago, the numbers are almost identical. Unfortunately, they were consistently low. His OBP was identical on the road and at home (.001 difference for you fact-checkers out there), and his first and second half numbers were incredibly similar as well. So, Mariners fans know that Ackley does not change his approach on the road or at home, he also hits similarly against lefty’s and righty’s (in fact, slightly better against left-handed pitchers), so if Ackley figures out an approach that works against certain situations, expect the adjustment to happen quickly for the rest of his game. 5. Runs What better reason to take a walk or do whatever it takes to get on base? The belief that someone will drive you home and put a run on the board. If Ackley was putting too much emphasis on getting around the bases to save the team a year ago, that pressure can lift, and he can develop into the .300 hitter that fans have been hoping for. Will Ackley be this year’s Mike Trout? No, but can he progress into the ideal leadoff or second spot hitter, absolutely. Cheers, and Go M’s! CLICK HERE TO CHECK OUT THE MARINERS BLOG IN OUR CLUBHOUSE TODAY AT NWSB!
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