Second Base: Dustin Ackley #13
24 years old; Experience: one year
Dear readers - meet your savior and future star forever of the Seattle Mariners Dustin Ackley!!! Or at least that is what it feels like the pressure that has been placed on Ackley in Seattle is like. Between you and me, I would rather be viewed that way than the other way - the consolation prize to the Stephen Strasburg sweepstakes (which if you remember correctly, the Mariners were all primed to win and then decided to finally win a couple of games at the end of the season, you know, when it mattered). That was a long bitter sentence in those parentheses, but it is a fair look. Even though Strasburg has had Tommy John surgery once, he was viewed as the biggest pitcher to come out of the draft in a long while. Ackley was viewed as the best college position player that year - he is the record holder for the most hits in the College World Series after all. He is a crucial part to this Seattle Mariners puzzle - as seen by the fact he has his own commercial after not even playing a full year with the team.
Ackley was fast-tracked for the majors from the start because he proved that he knew how to put the ball into play, which instantly separated him from about 12 of the position players on the Mariners roster. He joined the team after the June call-up last year and ended up the most valuable position player on the roster at a 2.7 WAR, second to Brendan Ryan at 2.6, and Franklin Gutierrez at 1.1 (eesh). Ackley held up against the major league pitchers. He hit to the tune of .273/.348/.417 with six home runs and seven triples. He struck out at quite a higher clip than he did in the minor leagues, about once in every five at bats. But that looked to be a sign of aggression, and Ackley for the most part is a patient hitter. His strikeouts weren't the dumb kind of the likes of my old favorite swinger Yuniesky Betancourt (whose strikeout hijinks have been permanently seared into my brain).
He also was a fairly competent defensive second basemen last year. He wasn't dazzling, but he showed his athleticism and a knack for the position. This is encouraging considering that Ackley played a bit of shortstop, first base, and mostly center field while playing college ball at University of North Carolina. You'll notice that second base isn't listed in those positions. But with the Mariners already having what they thought was the centerfielder of the future in Gutierrez, Ackley had to work his way into the line-up in a position the Mariners were lacking in. Ackley had a very Ackley like spring this year. He hit the ball well, he stole a base, he walked a few times, hit a home run, got a couple triples, and hit some doubles. He isn't the flashiest of players, but Ackley will very quietly put together a very solid game.
The key with Ackley that should help his batting stats a bit is that the team appears (on paper!!!!! every year the Seattle Mariners appear to have improved ON PAPER!!!!) to have added a few bats. Last year Ackley came in with a lot of expectations on him, and luckily for him, this year those unnecessary expectations have all been shifted to Jesus Montero. Ackley will start off the season hitting second, and assuming Ichiro's bat speed hasn't gone from Japanese bullet train to American Amtrak train in the past two years, pitchers will have to pitch to Ackley. I expect to see an improvement upon his stats solely because he will be playing the full year of major league ball, and Ackley didn't look too exposed last year. He is a mature baseball player, and luckily for us fans, one that helps you start to actually care about the Mariners again.