ESPN Insider contributor Dave Cameron had an analysis of Dustin Ackley over at his USS Mariner site, attempting to ask: Why does Ackley strike out so much?
Now, Ackley's strikeout rate isn't in Adam Dunn or Pedro Alvarez territory, but 55 strikeouts in 58 games is certainly a lot for a hitter who is supposed to have good bat control and was drafted second overall for his ability to hit for average. In part because of the strikeouts, Ackley is hitting just .248.
As Cameron writes,
Ackley’s career major league strikeout rate is 21.1%, higher than the 19.1% league average during his time in the big leagues, and his batting average is just .263. Batting average isn’t a great way to evaluate a hitter, but mid-level power guys generally need to hit for a higher average to offset the lack of bombs. Ackley is just not getting as many base hits as was expected, and it’s pretty much entirely due to the fact that he’s striking out far more than he has previously.
What's odd about Ackley's strikeout rate is that he actually has a good contact rate when he does swing. Cameron found 52 other hitters with a similar contact rate and they struck out an average of 15.2 percent of their plate appearances; Ackley's rate was the highest in the group.
Anyway, read his piece. Cameron is still optimistic about Ackley's potential. I'm a little more lukewarm. Ackley's had 636 career plate appearances, about one full season, so it's time to see the production improve. What concerns me about his star potential is that he doesn't do any one thing well -- the batting average, his supposed strength, hasn't been there. He walks at a decent clip, but he's not Edgar Martinez or anything. He has speed but he's not a big base stealer. He has a moderate power for a middle infielder (he's on pace for 31 doubles and 10 home runs), but not the power you want from a middle-of-the-order hitter. He's transitioned well to second base, but isn't going to be a Gold Glover.
Also remember, he's not a kid as he's 24 years old. As the second pick in the draft, he was expected to be more of a polished college hitter. Heck, his less-heralded North Carolina teammate, Kyle Seager (drafted the same year in the third round by the Mariners) has been more impressive this season, hitting the ball much harder and striking out less.
Of course, picking on Ackley for the Mariners' problems is like pointing out Gisele's nose is too big. Still, the Mariners need Ackley to be a star, not a complementary player.
Here's a question for you: Is the best second-year second baseman in the American League actually Cleveland's Jason Kipnis and not the more-hyped Ackley? Kipnis was also drafted in 2009, in the second round. Like Ackley, he was a college outfielder moved to the infield. He is a year older than Ackley, but he's hitting .284/.343/.457, with a .359 wOBA compared to Ackley's .305. He also leads the AL with 15 steals (in 16 attempts).
What do you think? Will Ackley adjust and become the .300 hitter scouts projected? Is Kipnis going to be the better player, with more power and more stolen bases? Place your vote and discuss below.