Without question, the pivot is the deepest it's been in years. A plethora of reputable producers and up-and-coming youngsters are available late in drafts. Seattle's Dustin Ackley and Oakland's Jemile Weeks are two of the position's brightest rising stars. And both available after pick No. 130 in average mixers. In this episode of The Docs, Brandon Funston and Brad Evans go toe-to-toe over which mid-round sleeper is worth reaching for.
Funston leads off: Dustin Ackley is commonly projected for a modest line of something like 10-15 home runs and 10-15 steals. But there's nothing modest about his ability, and it would be a mistake to believe that that is his '12 ceiling.
Ackley's power potential is often dismissed as a non-factor, but I wouldn't be shocked if he finishes in the 15-20 range in the home run department this season rather than that projected 10-15 neighborhood. His pitch recognition skills and ability to get the fat of the bat on the ball are outstanding, making him a tough out in all situations — southpaws Jonny Venters and Brian Fuentes have allowed, on average, one home run per season in their careers to lefty hitters, and Ackley took both of them deep last season as a rookie.
As he gets stronger and more seasoned, the power should come. And, there's reason for more optimism on the base paths, as well. He was a perfect 6-for-6 in SB attempts last season, and Baseball America graded out his speed as 65 on their 20-80 grading scale. Hitting near the top of the order for a team that ranked 11th in the league in steals despite the lowest OBP in the league, Ackley has a decent chance to push 20 SBs, as well.
Now, it's important to remind the readers that this is not a debate about who you would rather have given the ADPs of these two players. No, this is who you would rather have if price isn't a factor. Brad Evans tends to blur that distinction in these faceoffs. And I'm sure he'll mention that ADP disparity rather than point out the fact that he's backing a Weeks, which in baseball jargon is short for "Weeks on the DL." Like his brother, Jemile Weeks' history of staying healthy is dubious. His three-plus seasons in the minors were littered with various hip and leg injuries.
Assuming he stays healthy, Weeks will win the SB battle, but Ackley will hit for more power. The real debate starts after that. And, frankly, I'm more comfortable with Ackley's pedigree in that regard.
Evans responds: Rickie's younger, less powerful brother was one of the surprise sensations for deep leaguers a season ago. Over 406 at-bats, he ranked 11th among second basemen on a per game basis, one spot behind Dan Uggla and ahead of notables Chase Utley, Emilio Bonifacio and Kelly Johnson. Ackley, who logged roughly 70 bats less than Weeks, finished several rungs down the ladder, checking in at No. 18.
Ackley's attractiveness is easily recognized. He's a former elite prospect who hit the cover off the ball at Triple-A last year before opening eyes at the big league level. Still, he's a marginal power hitter (.144 ISO in '11) in a cavernous park who will likely contribute serviceable, not spectacular, numbers across the board. Ambitious owners, including blatant Seattle homer, Funston, are willing to overpay for him, banking on 20-20 numbers. That probably won't happen in his first full season. Totals in range of .265-10-65-85-12 are more likely.
No doubt, Weeks pales in comparison in the power department, but he makes up for it in speed. And he's about 20 picks cheaper on average (153.9 ADP). Firmly planted in the catbird seat, he's a strong candidate to outdistance Ackley in 2-3 categories, particularly in SBs and AVG. His aggressive demeanor on the basepaths and dynamite contact rates (88.2 CT% in '11) virtually guarantees it. Final numbers around .285-5-60-90-35 are very attainable.
In this Wild West shootout, Weeks will be the last man standing.
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