Dustin Ackley is headed home to North Carolina to rest up for a few months after winning MVP honors in the Arizona Fall League, but the Mariners' top position prospect already has his sights set on winning something even more valuable next spring. Namely, a spot on the Mariners' 25-man roster.
Ackley, 22, says he gained a lot of confidence and comfort in his outstanding five-week AFL performance, which culminated Saturday with a 3-2 loss by his Peoria Javelinas to Scottsdale in the league's championship game.
When the 2009 first-round Draft pick returns to Peoria in February, he'll be out to prove he's ready to compete for the Mariners' starting second base job despite general manager Jack Zduriencik's warning that it might be pushing too fast to project Ackley to the big leagues after just one season split between Double-A and Triple-A ball.
"That's definitely going to be my objective," Ackley said Monday in a conference call with Seattle-area reporters. "I want to play the best I can and hope I can make that job. I'm always optimistic about that.
"You don't know what will happen going in, [whether It'll be] Triple-A or the big leagues or you might get traded. There's always a chance of things happening. I'll just play the best I can and give everybody ahead of me a chance to put me where I want to be."
Ackley said he needs to continue improving his footwork at second base, primarily on receiving and making throws in double-play situations. But he made two nice plays ranging to his left in Saturday's title game and clearly is athletic and quick enough to play the position.
The Mariners also wanted him to work more on his basestealing, where he went 5-for-5 in the Fall League. He said it was tough to run more than that, given his tired legs at the end of a 10-month run of baseball.
But he flashed his speed in Saturday's championship, scoring from second on a ground ball bobbled by the second baseman and also beating out an error with a hustle play later in the game.
Without question, Ackley appears nearly Major League ready at the plate after leading the AFL in batting (.424), on-base percentage(.581), slugging percentage (.758) and runs scored (28).
His plan for Spring Training?
"Just doing the same things I did in Fall League, just try to continue hitting," said Ackley. "Hopefully, I've put myself in a good spot to move forward."
Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohns1 as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.