The Best of the Rest: Dustin Ackley
In the baseball world, there is a consensus that flamethrowing pitcher Stephen Strasburg will be the first to be chose in the 2009 first year player draft. But after him at #2? Odds are it will be UNC 1B/CF Dustin Ackley.
Ackley, a 3rd year player at UNC can really hit, as his career 100 extra-base hits, 127 walks and 73 strikeouts underscore — not to mention the 1.273 OPS he has put up in this his draft year. His swing is one of the best in the draft, if not the best; he’s pretty short to the ball, gets good extension through contact and has good bat speed.
Ackley’s major question is his ultimate position. He’s a plus-plus runner who has the physical ability to play center field, but his arm is still in question due to a July 2008 Tommy John surgery, itself the result of a pitching injury he suffered in high school. Any team that takes him as an outfielder is risking that his throwing strength will fully return given more time. If he is taken as a center fielder, he’s the No. 2 prospect in the draft; if he is picked with designs on first base, he should hit enough and field well enough to be a solid first-rounder, at least top 10.
Ackley, the son of former Red Sox minor league catcher John Ackley, is most often compared to Darin Erstad in CF. I’m not sure if this is a good thing, however it is probably in regard to the fact that he has such natural athleticism. It is expected that as he matures, he will move into the mould of a Todd Helton type hitter.
Here is the scouting report on Ackley, on the typical scout’s grading scale of 20 – 80:
One scout for an NL team that drafts early in the round had this to say about Ackley:
“He’s got above-average everything, with the exception of his raw power, but the (power) results play up because he does the others things so well and is so consistent with his swing.”
Since early May Dustin Ackley has been getting playing time in CF and has made all of the necessary throws from the position, answering questions about the health of his arm. Ackley entered play Saturday hitting .410/.517/.757 with 35 extra-base hits and a 44:25 BB:K ratio. After a strong offensive season that’s ending on a strong note this month and some clear evidence that his throwing arm is indeed healthy enough to play the outfield as a pro, he could become the clear choice for Seattle at No. 2 overall, where his plate skills, speed and outfield range would play very well in left or center field. One scout had this to say about Ackley even before his arm had been tested in CF: “He’s just a guaranteed value. Strasburg comes with a lot more risk than this guy does.”
“I’d be surprised if he was not their top target,” said one scout familiar with the thinking of Seattle Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik.
In the opening round of the ACC tournament, UNC 1B/OF Dustin Ackley hit his 18th and 19th home runs of the year as the Heels beat Duke, 8-3. Ackley drove in four and is hitting .409/.513/.768 with 37 extra-base hits and a 44-28 BB/K ratio in 56 games. The junior has all but cemented himself as the No. 2 overall prospect in the draft. Seattle owns the No. 2 pick.