Dustin Ackley’s role will be even more important with the loss of Greg Bird
The Yankees depth took a hit since Greg Bird will miss the season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. This will mean that back-up first baseman, second baseman and outfielder Dustin Ackley will be more important than the Yankees initially thought he would be.
Bird was slated to begin the season at Triple-A Scranton even before his torn labrum, but he would have been a valuable bat to bring up in the likely scenario of a Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez injury, or to give Teixeira a few days off against a right-handed pitching. The Yankees will now not have a proven offensive and defensive first baseman (and DH) who they can call-up when Teixeira or Rodriguez go through a slump.
Bird hit very well once he made his major league debut on August 13 as he had a .261 average with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and a .529 slugging percentage in 46 games (147 at-bats). He also had a .343 on-base percentage and hit .270 with nine homers against righties vs. .238 with two homers against lefties. He came through in the clutch a number of times to win a game for the Yankees and played very reliable defense at first base.
Ackley, who has the ability to play second base, left field and first base, will be the primary back-up to Teixeira and the Yankees will now not have a player with a lot of offensive ability to bring up at first base. Brian Cashman has said that he will not sign a notable free agent who can play first and will continue the trend of only adding players through trade. If this holds true, the Yankees will be able to bring up a player like Tyler Austin in case of an injury.
If Ackley can stay healthy the whole season and produce like he did while he was with the Yankees last season then the Yankees might not need to acquire another first baseman. However, it isn’t known if that will happen based on how he performed while with the Mariners last season.
In 85 games with the Mariners last season (207 at-bats), he had a .215 average with a .270 on-base percentage, six homers and only 19 RBIs. After being traded to the Yankees, he had a .288 average in 23 games (57 at-bats) with four homers, 11 RBIs, two triples and a .654 slugging percentage. His 57 at-bats were obviously a small sample size, but he obviously showed that he can be productive while giving the team versatility. Ackley missed 33 games after his second game with the team due to a lumbar strain.
The 27-year-old Winston-Salem, North Carolina native who played on the University of North Carolina baseball team with former Yankee Adam Warren was the second overall selection of the 2009 draft by the Mariners. In his last season in the minors with Triple-A Tacoma in 2011, Ackley had a .303 average in 66 games (331 at-bats) with nine homers, 35 RBIs, 17 doubles, seven steals and .421 on-base percentage. After he was called up to the Mariners that season he had a solid .273 average in 376 at-bats.
He has the potential to hit above .270 in the at-bats that he gets and to have a solid on-base percentage. He should also be able to hit for more power than he did at Safeco Field because his swing is built for Yankee Stadium, which is much more hitter friendly than Safeco is.
Ackley, who is signed through this season on a one-year, $3.2 million contract, has made one error in his 22 games at first in his career. He played four games including three starts at first while with the Yankees last season and made 28 put outs and had two assists. He has primarily played the outfield and second base in his five-year career, but he should be reliable enough while improving with increased opportunity at first base.
Ackley proved that he can be a productive offensive player while with the Yankees last season, but Cashman will need to sign a player or make a trade in June if he produces like he did while with the Mariners last season.