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 didnt. And they shouldnt. 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 dont need to give away a year of that perceived excellence.
Under current baseball rules, players with two years under their belt arent 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, its 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 isnt. 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 doesnt make Super 2 status, he wont be eligible for free agency until after the 2017 season.
But now that weve introduced Pineda into the equation, the fact that Seattle has been willing to start the clock on him suggests that the Mariners arent 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. Hes had to learn a new position a first baseman, DH and outfielder in college, hes a second baseman now and the transition hasnt been all that smooth.
His offensive potential is his meal ticket, but even there, hes not as advanced as the Mariners would like to see, although coming into Wednesday hed 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 hes getting close, he hasnt 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 hes right about 200 now. Even if he doesnt get to 300 before being called up, another couple of weeks would be helpful to getting him ready.
And then theres his defense. Seattle seems confident that over time hell be a decent defender at second. Reports suggest that time isnt now, however.
The Mariners arent going to keep him down at Triple-A just because of his defense, but as long as he is down there, hell have time to learn on a smaller stage, which would be good.