Should You Trust Dustin Ackley’s Hot Start?
By Tommy Rancel //
A few weeks ago, I warned of the dangers associated with the waiver wire rush whenever a new prospect is called up to the big leagues. In most cases, the new car smell wears off after a few unproductive weeks at the highest level. That said, there are some outliers who can become your team’s best friend.
Dustin Ackley is one of those cases. As a unit, the Seattle Mariners’ offense is putrid – and that is being kind. While the rest of the group offers little-to-nothing in terms of fantasy value, Ackley appears to be a shooting star in an otherwise offensive black hole. He also plays a position – second base – that is void of many above-average producers.
As a whole, second basemen are hitting .256/.317/.379 league wide. Ackley, on the other hand, is hitting .297/.347/.505 in his first 120 plate appearances. While he is clearly hitting better than your average second baseman, his sample size is rather limited. At the same time, there are no signs that his production thus far has been a product of luck or fluke.
Ackley’s .297 may be a bit above his true talent level; however a .319 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) along with a 17.9 line drive rate are both sustainable over a two month period. In terms of power, Ackley’s .207 ISO – or Isolated Power which measures extra-base hit production by subtracting batting average from slugging percentage – ranks second best in the American League at the keystone position behind Robinson Cano’s .213 (minimum 120 plate appearances). The 23-year-old did not show much home run power in the minors, but could reach double-digits this season. Even without balls clearing the fence, his left-handed bat should find plenty of gaps in spacious Safeco Field.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ackley’s 30 games in the majors is his keen sense of the strike zone. His walk rate is a tick lower than the average batter, but he strikes out less often which puts his K/BB slightly above the league’s average. In addition to the solid rate stats, he swings at less than 20% of pitches outside of the strike zone (league average is 30% according to fangraphs.com), and makes contact on more than 75% of his swings. Because of this, his swing and miss rate is also very low.
Despite the shallow talent pool, Ackley is owned in just 35% according to Bloomberg Sports’ Front Office tool. The same tool projects him with a .734 OPS for the remainder of the season. While that projection may be a bit harsh, it would still be nearly .40 points better than the league’s average for the position. If Ackley is sitting on your waiver wire, make the move now as the Pacific Northwest’s best kept secret might not be such a secret for much longer.
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