BY John Hickey 08:47PM 05/18/2011

Hickey: Mariners can afford to wait on Ackley

The Mariners would be well-served by even a few more weeks of Dustin Ackley playing at Triple-A Tacoma before a promotion to the big leagues.

Dustin Ackley could use a little more time with Tacoma, and it could save Seattle big bucks, too. / Getty Images

There has been a flurry of excitement this week at Safeco Field when an internet report suggested that the Mariners were talking about promoting 2009 first-round draft pick Dustin Ackley to the big leagues.

They didn’t. And they shouldn’t. Not yet.

There are two reasons for this. The first is simple. Ackley is a work in progress, both defensively and offensively.

The second is that if Ackley, the second player taken behind acclaimed pitcher Stephen Strasburg in the draft two years ago, is as good as the Mariners believe he is, the Mariners don’t need to give away a year of that perceived excellence.

Under current baseball rules, players with two years under their belt aren’t eligible for salary arbitration. Players with three years are. And then there are the so-called “Super 2″ players, those who rank in the top 17 percent of playing time of all players with two to three years in the game.

The prime trouble with waiting to make sure the “Super 2″ deadline has come and gone is that there is no deadline. Anytime after May 20 or so is a good bet, but it is a gamble.

The later in the season the Mariners wait to call Ackley up, the better it will be for them financially. If he is a Super 2, then he can go to salary arbitration four times. If not, it’s just three times. And salary arbitration is where players start to make big bucks.

More than that, a Super 2 player gets to free agency faster than a player who isn’t. So Michael Pineda, who was on the roster to start the season, will be eligible for free agency after the 2016 season. If the Mariners opt to keep Ackley in the minors long enough that he doesn’t make Super 2 status, he won’t be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.

But now that we’ve introduced Pineda into the equation, the fact that Seattle has been willing to start the clock on him suggests that the Mariners aren’t above starting the clock on Ackley, as well.

The difference is that there was consensus that Pineda was ready to pitch in the big leagues. There is no such consensus on Ackley. He’s had to learn a new position – a first baseman, DH and outfielder in college, he’s a second baseman now – and the transition hasn’t been all that smooth.

His offensive potential is his meal ticket, but even there, he’s not as advanced as the Mariners would like to see, although coming into Wednesday he’d hit in 11 of his last 12 games for Triple-A Tacoma, (22-for-50, .440) to bring his overall average up to .280 from .211. And while his on-base percentage (.399) and OPS (.844) suggest that he’s getting close, he hasn’t hit well enough at Triple-A for long enough to get the call.

Scouts said this spring that he needed as many as another 300 plate appearances to be ready, and he’s right about 200 now. Even if he doesn’t get to 300 before being called up, another couple of weeks would be helpful to getting him ready.

And then there’s his defense. Seattle seems confident that over time he’ll be a decent defender at second. Reports suggest that time isn’t now, however.

The Mariners aren’t going to keep him down at Triple-A just because of his defense, but as long as he is down there, he’ll have time to learn on a smaller stage, which would be good.

Twitter:@JHickey3


YourThoughts

  • Myohmynot

    Why are people so high on this kid..when I saw him in SP, all I thought was “wow, he is the size of a high school kid”  and played like it as well. 

    He has BUST written all over him. 

  • Myohmynot

    Why are people so high on this kid..when I saw him in SP, all I thought was “wow, he is the size of a high school kid”  and played like it as well. 

    He has BUST written all over him. 

  • Myohmynot

    Why are people so high on this kid..when I saw him in SP, all I thought was “wow, he is the size of a high school kid”  and played like it as well. 

    He has BUST written all over him. 

  • Cruddly

    I don’t know what you guys were expecting this year.  I guess that fluke playoff run last year raised everyone’s expectations — everyone except Carrol and Schneider, they knew better and blew up the roster.  Since then we have seen great improvement in many positions, except the most crucial, quarterback.  And this huge flaw could eventually bring this franchise down if something isn’t done about it. 
    That huge problem aside, I love seeing the Seahawks finally emphasizing  defense and giving  the 12th man something to make some noise about. There is just something cool about having a team known for its defense, even in this age of the elite quarterbacks.
    Nobody likes losing, but to suddenly accuse this franchise of going in the wrong direction is just short sighted.  Everyone agrees that even the much maligned and rookie laden offensive line showed improvement in the losing effort against Dallas by not giving up a sack, and by allowing Lynch to run for over 100 yards.  
    Okay, so they aren’t going to the Super Bowl this year.  Relax, the Mariners are just around the corner.

  • Anonymous

    I’m not sure why the total number of transactions is such a “go to” line for pundits. Who cares really? Sure, Seattle is one of the worst teams in the league. But Hawk_Eye and Cruddly hit the nail on the head by basically responding with, well, duh! That’s kinda what happens in year 2 of a complete rebuild. The question worth writing about is whether Schneider and Carroll are building the team the right way.

    The vast majority of Schneider’s transactions have been to raise the baseline level of talent–the talent at the bottom of the roster. Our defensive ends used to be Lawrence Jackson and Darryl Tapp, backed up by Jason Babin. Now our ends are Red Bryant and Chris Clemons, backed up by Raheem Brock. In terms of performance relative to price I’d say we made out rather well. LoJack and Tapp have done nothing. Babin has been a revelation now that he’s in a scheme with no run responsibility, but I’d say he’s offset by what we’ve found in Bryant (who is playing at a near Pro-Bowl level).

    As for Jackson/Whitehurst, they couldn’t have made it more obvious that they’re both “Mr. Right Now” unless they hung a sign around them with those words. Right now, I’d rather have TJax doing no worse than Kevin Kolb for what Arizona paid. 

  • zippy

    right on for the offense- bu why does every story ignore significant progress on the defense– half the game, right?
    they find an elite slinger in the draft (seahawks have never had one) and they are right back in the mix. There likley is a franchise QB somewhere in the draft other than Luck- the trick is to figure out who that will be– I’m thinking Foles.

  • thxNJ7Z

    As for the roster rebuilding, I remember Sonic fans crying foul over Sam Presti’s demolition and rebuilding “the’re ruining the team on purpose so they can get out of town!” – No, they had a plan, and now the Thunder are a playoff calliber team. The Seahawks are on the same path, we will just have to wait and see if they get simmilar results. As for the coaching, young teams make mistakes, but the lack of apparent discipline is concerning.

  • http://twitter.com/kingwabbit Jeff Shope

    Can’t blame this mess on Ruskell anymore

  • http://twitter.com/kingwabbit Jeff Shope

    The vast majority of Schneider’s transactions have been to raise the baseline level of talent- dcrockett  u mean like at QB?  Trojanman and Bo Duke gave up how much again for clipboard jesus who can’t beat out Tjack who is the worst so called starter in the NFL?