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November 22, 2010 at 3:30 PM

Dustin Ackley says being named MVP of the Arizona Fall League gave him needed confidence boost

Dustin Ackley had, by most accounts, a good first professional season. But those reports also say that, while solid, his production wasn’t always up there with what was expected of a No. 2 overall draft pick.
There were concerns expressed about his defense at second base as well as his ability to hit consistently as he vaulted on up to Class AAA Tacoma.
But late last week, Ackley had a stellar second season in the Arizona Fall League rewarded by being named its MVP. Ackley, 22, led the league with a .424 batting average, .518 on-base-percentage and .758 slugging percentage, is now preparing for a little much-deserved downtime, prior to heading on out to Arizona to prepare for spring training. Speaking to him moments ago on a conference call, it’s clear the MVP nod provided a needed boost in confidence.
“Yeah, I think it definitely helped my confidence,” he said. “I mean, I ended the year pretty good — kind of up and down. I had some really good games and some really bad games. I definitely think this Fall League really helps because once I started feeling good, it was like I felt good the rest of the Fall League as far as hitting goes and how I did things.
“I think it was a really good time for me to get that confidence back and figure out the things I needed to do and the things that work for me.”
Photo Credit: Ted S. Warren/AP

Ackley says he knows he’ll have a good opportunity this spring to show those things again. Winning a job, he adds, is definitely his goal.
But before that happens, he knows there’s work to do.
His biggest challenge will be on defense. Ackley feels his double-play-turning ability is not up to MLB par just yet.
“I think I know what I need to work on at second base,” he said. “I feel like I need to work most on the double-plays and footwork and stuff like that.”
Ackley feels comfortable about his throwing and his ability to mak routine plays on grounders. It’s the trickier stuff and the double-play throws.
“You’re throwing and you’re not even seeing where the ball is going sometimes,” he said. “That’s going to be the biggest thing for me.”
But Ackley certainly did feel more comfortable in the AFL this year than he did 12 months ago, especially at the plate.
“I just think it was the comfort level,” he said. “Those were really my first games last year as a professional and I was new to everything. I didn’t really hit a lot with the wood bat before then…just the hitting and facing those guys I’d never really faced before. That was an adjustment.”
And now, the Mariners hope he makes the needed defensive adjustments as he prepares for his second big league training camp. If he does, he could be manning the middle infield for Seattle at some point in 2011. Probably sooner, rather than later.



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