|Dustin Ackley (photo from MLB.com)|
.424 AVG, .581 OBP, .758 SLG, 1.338 OPS, and 28 runs scored - all AFL-leading totals.
Granted, the AFL is only about a month long. It takes some luck to have such gaudy numbers. However, it takes some talent too.
Exactly how much of Ackley's AFL performance was luck? It's impossible to tell. However, is it so much that he can't push Jose Lopez out of the starting lineup? How can't Ackley be the favorite to start at second base on opening day at this point?
It's so obvious that the stage is set for Dustin Ackley. He could bat ninth, and Chone Figgins could be moved back to third base. Figgins was a pretty good defender at third with the Angels, and he probably still is pretty good over at the hot corner. He wasn't all that good at second base. Figgins is probably at least as good of a defender at third base, and even though Ackley is still inexperienced at second, it isn't like he is taking over for a Gold Glover.
Offensively, the ninth spot for Ackley would be ideal (at least at the start of the year). He would be protected by Ichiro. Moreover, he profiles as a table-setter at the top of the order, so the stuff he will be asked to do in the nine spot will likely be very similar to what he does once he is fully developed.
Plus, I doubt teams will be all that enthusiastic to see Ackley, Ichiro, and Chone Figgins all in a row. Moreover, all Ackley is really being asked to do is replace Lopez's offense. His remarkably better plate discipline alone will get him close.
Ackley has his sights set on winning the second base job, and it should be his for the taking. He is good enough to continue to develop in the majors. He can replace Chone Figgins's glove at second base, and Jose Lopez's lumber at the plate.
Opening the season with Ackley wouldn't be a move where the M's take some lumps now to reap the rewards a few seasons down the road. He is at least a neutral move right now, and obviously has lots more upside than any other alternative. It is a move that makes sense for this season, and this projected lineup.
It is time to hype Dustin Ackley. He should be the M's top option at second base right now.