Once one of the most intriguing young players in baseball, Dustin Ackley of the Seattle Mariners has struggled at the big league level and I wonder whether he would be better off with a change of scenery.
In 1,471 career plate appearances, the 25-year-old Ackley has hit .245/.315/.354 with 22 home runs and 56 doubles. Those numbers leave plenty to be desired, but with him once being an elite young talent and his value appearing to have taken a hit, I think that Ackley could be a nice buy-low candidate. If the Mariners are willing to deal him for a fair price, I strongly believe that the Chicago Cubs should be interested.
Ackley has been a second baseman for most of his short career and filling in at 1B when needed. Last season the Mariners even experimented with him in the outfield, but his move to the outfield appeared to have more to do with the emergence of second baseman Nick Franklin than anything else. Playing mostly CF, Ackley looked comfortable and did a very nice job. Regardless of position, Ackley is a good defender, and his versatility allows you to always find a spot for him in the lineup.
The question with Ackley is whether he can hit at the major league level. He was an extremely patient and productive hitter in college, hitting .412/.489/.648 in three seasons at North Carolina. In 1,044 minor league plate appearances Ackley has a line of .290/.397/.443 including .365/.472/.500 in 25 games in Triple-A last season. Ackley did look better late in the season when he got called back up to the Mariners, but his .253/.319/.341 2013 line leaves plenty to be desired. In college and the minors Ackley showed great gap-to-gap power, but in the majors it has been almost non-existent.
It is possible that Ackley turned a corner at the end of last season, but it is also very possible that he simply cannot hit major league pitching and will continue to struggle. Most scouts believe that his issues at the plate are not from a lack of talent but something mechanically or mental. He does have a long, sloppy swing, so maybe tightening that up a little bit will help.
Ackley may be a little bit risky, but if the price is right I think he makes a ton of sense for the Cubs. First of all, his patient approach would fit in perfectly with what the front office is trying to accomplish. He is not afraid to work the count and take a walk when necessary. Also, with Darwin Barney‘s offensive struggles, 2B is an obvious hole on this Cubs team, and with top prospects Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara appearing to be close to the big leagues and being possible second basemen, Ackley’s position versatility would be welcomed. Lastly, the Cubs are obviously not ready to compete this season. They are looking to add young talent that will be productive when the team is competitive. At 25-years-old and having his projected prime years ahead of him, Ackley certainly fits that build.
Because of his age and potential, Ackley will obviously not come cheap. The Cubs would have to give up legitimate players and/or prospects to get him in a trade. I hate to speculate what it would cost because honestly I have no idea. I just see a young player who could be obtainable and would easily fit into the Cubs’ plans. It would be a risky acquisition because there is so much unknown, but I think a change of scenery and approach could equal success for Ackley.