Dustin Ackley has Key Role for 2016 Yankees
Even though there are no starting positions available for Dustin Ackley, he is vital to the Yankees’ success in 2016.
Ackley was acquired from the Seattle Mariners at the 2015 trade deadline to provide depth behind second baseman Stephen Drew, and in the outfield. He eventually became the second string first baseman when Mark Teixeira broke his leg.
In the first portion of his career in Seattle, he was primarily used at second base until former Yankee Robinson Cano took over the position in 2014. His productivity declined and he was able to be acquired for Ramon Flores and Jose Ramirez, but ended up on the disabled list after 5 days as a Yankee.
Ackley claimed that his time on the DL may have been a blessing in disguise. Before arriving to New York, he hit .201 with three home runs in 80 games with the Mariners, and he needed some work in the batting cage in order to improve his approach and tweek his swing.
Ackley has a history of injuries to his left foot, and as a result, he has a tendency to come off his back foot too soon when swinging in the box. This could cause a hitter to lack power, be off in regards to timing, and get out in front of the ball.
During his time on the DL, he became more grounded and was able to produce upon his return.
“It’s something that I really have to focus on,” Ackley said. “You want to go to the ball and it’s almost like, you’re going to the ball, but you don’t want to go crazy to it and for me, I found a happy medium.”
Over his final 21 games with the Yankees, Ackley hit .306 with four homers.
A late season injury to Drew opened the door for an Ackley/ Rob Refsnyder platoon at second base, and potential injuries in 2016 makes Ackley a key component to this Yankee team.
Backup first baseman Greg Bird will miss the entire 2016 season with a torn labrum, and Ackley has stepped in as the backup first baseman. And starting first baseman Mark Teixeira always seems to find his way onto the disabled list, so expect Ackley to receive significant playing time as the Yankees’ utility man.
The Yankees are hoping Ackley could carry over his strong September into this season and become an impact hitter when he fills in at any spot. We all know how good he could be in the field, (no errors in 518.1 innings in 2015) but once upon a time he was considered one of the most promising young hitters, so the Yankees are hoping he could tap into that in 2016.
He’s not the youngest Yankee, but certainly young enough for New York to hope his best days are ahead of him to provide insurance behind big question marks in terms of health.
It’s great to hope that he can be the great hitter that scouts acclaimed him to be, but at this moment there isn’t too much evidence besides one solid month of play.
There’s a reason Ackley doesn’t have a starting position: he simply can’t hit enough to hold down a regular position. In Ackley’s worst season (2012), he hit .226 with a dismal OPS of .622. The worst case scenario is that 2016 is that bad for Ackley, and comes when the Yankees need him to fill a hole at some point in the season.
Yes, he’s only a backup utility man, but if Teixeira goes down Ackley’s importance will be as great as Bird’s was last year. And if he falters when he’s needed the most, it will be devastating for the Yankees’ playoff run.
Ackley has one more year under Yankee control and can file or arbitration next off season, meaning general manager Brian Cashman could keep him if he wants, or non-tender him in 2017.
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The ball is in Ackley’s court. If he performs, he’ll be back next year and turn out to be a bargain. If not, he won’t be a Yankee next year and they’ll move on. One thing is for sure, though: Ackley will see significant playing time in 2016 and could make or break the Yankee playoff run.