Dustin Ackley, CF
Everything that Nick Franklin is, plus one thing ... greed



Sunday, the Mariners took a series from the A's and headed into a day off.  Wedge was in a great mood.  He was bright with every answer until somebody asked about Franklin Gutierrez.  Pause, pick your words carefully.  "His legs tightened up on him - Again."

We grok here that Wedge has long since tired of dog-and-pony show.  Managers, if you have just joined us, want players they can count on.


Michael Saunders can play defensive CF just fine ... his OPS+ for the season is down to 74, and he's now 26 years old and going backwards.  It would be a nice luxury to make him a #4 outfielder with upside.  He's kind of a "tweener" defensively anyway.


Dustin Ackley seemed like a natural CF, except that the reports out of North Carolina were that his right elbow was shot.  Now they say he's throwing the ball like a champ.  BOOM SHAK-A-LAKA.  There's your Mariner center fielder, gentlemen...

or not.


We'll Get Back to You, Any Day Now

With Ackley tearing up AAA, nineteen kinds of reporters and other entourage were banging down Wedge's door.  What's the holdup here?!

Wedge sez, "I want him to be comfortable in center field."  Actually Wedge wants Nick Franklin to be comfortable in second base. With nobody breathing down his neck, if he goes 1-for-16.

I don't know what the solution to that is.  You tell me?!   Perhaps by making Ackley the regular center fielder, and telling him to throw away his 2B glove for the rest of the year...



Has it struck you, that Nick Franklin is everything we hoped Dustin Ackley would be?  And that's saying a whale of a lot; Ackley was a 5-year college player, the kind of "best bet" that you see only once every several drafts.

Here's what Franklin is, and what Ackley should have been:

  • Superb eye for a pitched strike or pitched ball
  • KBIZLT contact swing
  • Pedroia-like OBP
  • Surprising gap power ... 30+ homers, 15-20 homers
  • etc etc
  • In short, a left-handed Dustin Pedroia, complete with .300 AVG, .375 OBP, Homers, and all the trimmings

There is one big difference between the two players, and it is perceived on an aiki level.  Nick Franklin is not greedy.  He's not up there hoping to yank a fly ball down the RF line.  He's really, really not, not ever.  Franklin is up there, movin' his chaw around his cheek, playin' hardball, tryin' to beat the pitcher any way any how.  

It's a complete lack of greed on the cellular level.  Which is a beautiful thing, "beautiful" in the strict definition of the word - a pretty sight that is pleasing to the senses and heart because of an intrinsic morality and worth.  Like Edgar's lack of greed, both at the plate and at the negotiating table, playing his whole career in Seattle for pennies on the dollar vs. other M's stars.

And because Franklin isn't greedy, he is functionally quick at the plate.  

Ackley has fast reflexes, but because of his greed, he has been functionally slow.  And his zone coverage is far more problematic, with his subconscious desire to yank the ball into the RF seats.  A fastball 2" outside is a totally different pitch when the thought of the 1B line is creeping into your mind...

We don't mean that Ackley is a slimeball.  Greed is something we all wrestle with in sports.  In aikido it's a daily struggle, not to grab for the wristlock.  Although Scott Boras might enter into the discussion here somewhere...


Ackley has a .467 OBP in Tacoma, but the last ten games might be even better.  He's slugging only .366, which Dr. D hopes is an indication that he's now willing to just line the ball around the park.  Sounds like it:  his AVG is .333 when behind in the count.

As soon as Ackley goes to his Nick Franklin game, the M's are liable to range quite the 1-2 lefty punch at the top of the order :- )





Albeit a really fast squirrel.  Dude missed a ball in the gap by YARDS simply by taking the wrong angle to the ball.  He ran straight to where he thought the ball would be - and the ball was ten feet over his head and rolling to the wall,  He doesn't know the angles out there yet.
His arm is FINE.  Better than Guti's, and all that 2B marksmanship lets him hit the cutoff man with a bullet, but I'm with Wedge in that Ackley needs a little time to judge some liners hit right and him and figure when to back up and when to come in, or how much carry a ball has in the daytime vs at night.  Those sorts of things.
At the plate tho?  Beautiful.  Beautific even.  He walked on 5 pitches cuz he didn't see anything he liked.  When he sees one he likes early in the count, he's swinging and making hard contact.  Not getting a ton of loft on those shots yet but a .300/.380 CF would be heaven, whatever the slugging.  Especially one who runs the bases like Ackley.  If somebody could teach him how to steal...
Anyway.  CF looks good to Ackley so far as far as potential, he's just got to polish the fundamentals.  He'll work that position like he did at 2B.  He may not LOOK pretty - his jumps won't be preternatural, and his routes to the ball may get a litty ziggy (or zaggy) but FUNCTIONALLY he'll work it out, just like he did to be a plus 2B by the numbers even with all that skidding around on the OF grass.
He's a worker.
And if he's fixed his greed, then he'll be golden.  Absolutely.  He'll figure it out at some point, I'd like it to be with us.  But I'm fine with not rushing Ackley.  Guti could have made that easier, but he seems determined to finish his career with unsolvable injury woes.  Poor guy.
If Ackley can keep his plate unselfishness that he's re-discovered in AAA and bring it to the bigs with his CF glove, tho, that writing is on the wall.  Just might not be this week...


That being the case, apparently Wedge was putting his cards on the table.  Thanks for the on-site report m'man.
I'm excited to hear that he has a 'better arm than Guti'.  And, fascinating point about the infield accuracy... I knew a minor leaguer who spent his drill time throwing groundballs into a garbage can at 1B.  It hadn't occurred that OF's don't get that kind of practice.
What happened to Ackley's elbow injury?!


The cliche, as y'know, to make hard contact and let the HR's happen naturally.  For Dustin Ackley you would expect that to be not only true -- he'll be no exception -- but will be ESPECIALLY true.
It's a generalization that applies to a lot of hitters, though there is a certain 41-year-old around who is demonstrating that it's not an absolute...


To tell you all the truth, I think I'm more comfortable with Ackley in LF. OK, he''s not your classic bonking COF, but if he hits .280+ and gets on base at a .350+ rate, with a bunch of doubles....well there have been lots of successful LF'er like that.
And it reduces the glove demand that he faces, too.....which may impact his bat.
If a lack of greed is a good thing for Ackley, it may be so for us. A funtional, tough-out LF, with 35 doubles will be hunky dory for me.
If the MLB bat reappears, then we can consider CF.


That's when he found some college power because he wasn't swinging with one arm any more.  Dude hit .400 with one arm, which is why I'm not worried long-term about his ability to hit some paltry .270 with two arms.  Just has to disentangle himself from the axle, as you said.
But Ackley can throw.  He's been able to throw.  Yes, he had TJ surgery in college, but he can uncork a throw still (again). We moved Ackley to 2nd because we had Guti, and we had ZERO second basemen at the time.  Third base might have been a bit much, but the throws from second are fine.  Again, I don't see him with a RF arm, but CF or LF is fine for him, and I'd definitely aim him at CF if we can.  Still have that hole...
I'm just looking forward to seeing his ice-cool demeanor back in place at the plate as well as in the dugout.  No more pressing, just do what you do, Dustin.  This team could explode with second-half additions (or re-introductions). And if the reinvigorated team hits the ground like it can we might not trade several of our great prospects at all. 
Hard to trade all the free guys who make you relevant again.  Let's see if we can get there.  Miller and Ackley for the O, Walker and E-Ram for the staff. Blow the doors off in July and see where it gets you - or at least where it leaves you.

GLS's picture

Appreciate the report. Churchill has been insistent that the arm won't play in center so it's good to hear another opinion.


Ackley doesn't have a noodle. Do I want him throwing off his back foot while falling toward the wall? No.  But c'mon, we watched Randy Winn with his noodle out there, and the Giants had no hesitation about running him out in CF to get them a bunch of WAR. Ackley's arm is stronger than that, too.  I would rather have an accurate throw to the cutoff man or home than watch a strong-armed guy airmail it trying to show off anyway. And most of what a CF does is chase down balls in the gap and toss the ball back in to the infield.  The number of times a flyball to CF is deep enough to make a difference on a play at the plate but not so deep as to prevent said play is... small.  Running down flies, properly positioning onseself for throws, hitting the target... those are the keys.
Ackley is all about smart play.  For whatever greed he's shown at the plate, he doesn't have it in the field. That humility's admirable, IMO.


I'd rather have an outstanding, instinctive CF'er. If we have some power at 3B and 2B, then get long-term true power hitters at 1B and in RF, or for that matter even just RF, we can still thrive with a good pure hitter with relatively low power (for a corner OFer) in LF. Even more so if Zunino blossoms as a power hitter. Even more so if we have a SS who is not a black hole but a pretty good stick (Miller?). What we can't have is both corner OF'ers devoid of power.
I hope Ackley to CF is a stopgap solution for this year, but he'd have to really show me the same thing in CF that he did at 2B to reassure me about entrenching him at that position. I have to admit, he made me a believer at 2B, though.

bsr's picture

I think it is a good sign that Ackley is slapping singles and drawing walks in AAA. One can only imagine what an ego blow the whole thing is, and how tempting it would be to try to smack some macho HRs to cover himself. Instead he is doing the right thing for his game, working on contact and plate discipline. It shows a lot of self-confidence IMO.
Along with the willingness to jump around the diamond to difficult positions, basically patching holes in the org wherever he is needed...really have to love this guy. It'll be 10x more rewarding if he gets it going after all this struggle than if he'd just taken the league by storm from the beginning (not that we'd be complaining if that had happened :)
Ackley in Tacoma:
2010 : 274/338/439
2011 : 303/421/487
2013 : 365/472/500

Rockies Jeff's picture

I like our comments and comparisons in Tac. Jeff, well said about greed. Ali would have never dominated had he tried to be a Joe Frazier. We can all hope Ackley will learn to play ball as Ackley. You don't dominate D-1 college pitchers without a ton of talent. But talent has to be rightly applied. Very good points by all. Thanks.

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