Seattle selected Ackley with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft and ticketed him for stardom.
The can’t-miss draft pick that somehow did is returning to home to the organization that selected him with the No. 2 overall pick of the 2009 draft and believed stardom would soon follow.
Dustin Ackley is coming back to the Mariners.
On Wednesday afternoon, Major League Baseball sources confirmed an earlier report that the Mariners had signed Ackley to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. Obviously, Ackley doesn’t fit into the Mariners’ “step back” plans. He’ll most likely start the season at Class AAA Tacoma and provide some emergency depth if needed.
In a reminder to how quickly the seasons and years pass, Ackley will turn 31 on Feb. 26. He hasn’t played in a Major League Baseball game since May 29, 2016 when a shoulder injury that required surgery ended his season with the Yankees. Since then he’s spent the past two seasons with the Class AAA Salt Lake Bees (Angels). In 2018, he posted a .286/.378/.398 slash line with 13 doubles, a triple, four homers and 39 RBI in 72 games.
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Following a miserable 2008 season where Seattle lost 101 games, but needed to lose just one more to secure the No. 1 overall pick in the 2009 draft, the Mariners selected Ackley with the No. 2 pick out of North Carolina after the Nationals took right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg out of San Diego State with the first pick. Strasburg was considered the best college pitcher and Ackley was considered the best college hitter, not just in that specific draft but perhaps in college history. The debate over who should be taken first was prevalent leading up to the draft. It seemed the Mariners would still get a solid pick with whoever remained. They took Ackley, who hit over .400 in college with a .480 on-base percentage and earned just about every NCAA accolade possible.
After protracted negotiations leading right up to the deadline to sign with the Mariners, Ackley eventually inked a five-year contract worth more than $7 million.
Ackley made his professional debut in the Arizona Fall League in 2009. He started the 2010 season at the Class AA level and eventually moved to Class AAA Tacoma to close out the season. Ackley opened the 2011 season with the Rainiers. After 66 games where he posted a .303/.421/.487 slash line with 17 doubles, three triples, nine homers and 36 RBI, he was called up to the Mariners.
He made his MLB debut on June 17, 2011 vs. the Phillies at Safeco Field and singled in his first at-bat. He finished that season, posting a .273/.348/.417 slash line with 16 doubles, seven triples, six homers and 36 RBI. He looked like a future star and someone the Mariners could build around going forward.
But that never happened. The league adjusted to Ackley’s approach at the plate and his swing issues. He struggled in 2012, posting a .226/.293/.398 slash line with 22 doubles, two triples, 12 homers and 50 RBI and a whopping 124 strikeouts.
Ackley tried to make a major change to his swing and his stance going into the 2013 season, but it didn’t help. After early struggles, he was told by then-manager Eric Wedge to scrap it and find something else. He went back to his old stance and swing, but found minimal success.
While Ackley struggled at the plate, the Mariners bounced him around the field. He played outfield and first base in college and was moved to second base upon signing with Seattle. The Mariners then asked him to move to the outfield after signing Robinson Cano to a big free-agent contract.
Ackley played the entire 2014 season in Seattle, slashing .245/.293/.398 in 143 games with 27 doubles, four triples, 14 homers and 65 RBIs. He was traded to the Yankees midway through the 2015 season for three minor league players.
In 584 games with Seattle, Ackley posted a .243/.306/.366 slash line.