Dustin Ackley will make his Major League debut tonight in Seattle against the Phillies and Roy Oswalt. The Mariners second baseman of the future is now the second baseman of the present as he steps into Safeco Field tonight against the Phillies.
Ackley, the overall #2 pick in the 2009 draft, taken right after a guy named Stephen Strasburg, is just 23-years-old. He hit .303 with nine home runs and 35 RBI in 66 games at Triple-A Tacoma this season, receiving the call-up to the big leagues on Wednesday after going 2-for-4 in a game against Fresno.
His 2010 stats, however, were not stellar. At Double-A and Triple-A, Ackley hit a combined .267 with 7 HR’s and 10 SB’s.
Ackley’s defense has been the most worrisome part of his game – he was an outfielder in college at North Carolina, and part of the reason he began the season in Tacoma was to get more reps as an infielder – but the rookie told reporters on Friday that he feels as good at second base as he ever has.
That’s good for him, and for the Mariners, too, because Wedge told Ackley prior to Friday’s game that he plans to play him every day. Ackley is more of a gap hitter and he has a great eye at the plate. We eventually see him as an ideal #2 hitter behind Ichiro.
Ackley’s debut is not good news for veteran infielder Adam Kennedy who was hitting .275 with 5 homers, 20 RBI, and 6 HR’s. Kennedy will be the DH tonight against Philadelphia and he’s been one of Seattle’s most consistent hitters this year. Manager Eric Wedge said he told Kennedy: “You’ll spell Smoak at first, you’ll spell Ackley at second and you’ll get some starts at third base as well.” Sounds like a qualifier at multiple positions, but one who won’t get as many AB’s as he has. Jack Wilson is the real odd man out, as he’s completely a backup at the middle infield positions now.
Fantasy Baseball Projection — Dustin Ackley
Fantasy owners should keep an eye on his early progress, with expectations a bit tempered considering it’s his first glance at big league pitching. Still, Ackley has the chance to be a solid pickup at a traditionally shallow position like second base. For the remainder of the 2011 season, we see Ackley getting 300 AB’s and hitting .260 with 10 homers, 45 RBI, and 10 stolen bases.