Commentary

Dustin Ackley's defiant shift

Defying the rules, the M's turn the draft's No. 2 pick into something he's never been

Updated: September 3, 2010, 3:41 PM ET
By Jason A. Churchill | Special to ESPN Insider
Getty ImagesJust how hard is it to make a first baseman into a second baseman? Start with: Have you ever heard of it being done successfully?

The amateur season of 2009 was filled with news about Stephen Strasburg, the flame-throwing right-hander out of San Diego State University, a player tabbed as the top overall selection in the June draft who would sign for more than $15 million with the Washington Nationals. But Strasburg wasn't the only gem in the class -- he's just the one who isn't changing positions. The No. 2 pick is carving his way through the minors with his bat, but he's also getting on-the-job training with the glove.

Within baseball's defensive spectrum, there are only two positions more difficult than second base -- catcher and shortstop. And the overwhelming percentage of players that switch positions during their careers move down on that spectrum; shortstops become center fielders, catchers become first basemen, second basemen become left fielders. But Dustin Ackley, the second pick in the 2009 draft, is looking to defy the odds in his attempt to develop against that grain.

Primarily a first baseman at the University of North Carolina, Ackley was typically profiled as an offensive-minded but capable center-field prospect by pro scouts, and was generally considered the second-best talent in the class as an outfielder. But the Seattle Mariners had other ideas, thanks to Ackley's college head coach.

Within baseball's defensive spectrum, there are only two positions more difficult than second base -- catcher and shortstop. And the overwhelming percentage of players that switch positions during their careers move down on that spectrum; shortstops become center fielders, catchers become first basemen, second basemen become left fielders.

"He played a little shortstop in high school, but Mike Fox was the first one to say to us 'Hey, I think Dustin can play the infield.' And from there we started the discussion internally as an organization," said Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara. But why would such a move work? "Because he has good hands and is athletic, he comes to work and is a low-key, low-anxiety player," McNamara said, "and he doesn't get overwhelmed, he doesn't panic."


For the story of how Ackley has made his shift, and when you should expect to see him in the big leagues, you must be an ESPN Insider.