10/01/11 1:00 PM ET
With a bright debut, Ackley an Aaron nominee
By Taylor Soper / MLB.com
After arriving in Seattle on June 16, the rookie second baseman arguably was the Mariners' most consistent hitter. Ackley ranked second on the team with a .273 average and led Seattle with seven triples, which ranked second among American League rookies.
For his success, Ackley has been nominated for the Hank Aaron Award. Introduced in 1999, the coveted honor is awarded to the best overall hitters in both the American and National League, and is voted on by baseball fans and the media.
"As far as playing goes, I feel like I've handled everything pretty well," Ackley said. "I've had my ups and downs and learned a lot. Overall, I've been pretty happy with how I've been."
And so have Mariners fans. Ackley, the second overall Draft pick in 2009, made his much-anticipated debut on June 17 against Philadelphia and quickly notched his first hit off Roy Oswalt in the second inning.
One day later, the 23-year-old launched his first home run into the right-field seats at Safeco Field. This much was clear: Ackley was ready for the big leagues.
"He has a much, much better feel for himself than most people would at that point in time in their career," said manager Eric Wedge.
But the past three months haven't been all gravy. After recording 17 extra-base hits in June and July combined, the North Carolina native followed a career-high 10-game hitting streak in late August with somewhat of a late-season lull, going just 4-for-39 from Sept. 7-18.
Like many of his fellow young teammates -- the Mariners have played 18 rookies this season -- Ackley is learning on the go. He's had to make adjustments at the Major League level, and the rookie has found out a lot about himself as a player this season.
"It's been tough and a grind," said Ackley, who has played in all but one game since July 3. "There have definitely been times where you wonder if you're ever going to get out of a slump or ever going to make an adjustment. It just takes time, and you've just got to keep battling."
While Ackley has certainly proved that he had talent at the plate, there were still questions about his play at second base. He came to North Carolina from high school as a shortstop, but he played mostly in the outfield, and for a short time, at first base as a Tar Heel.
The Mariners wanted to see what Ackley could do at second base. He began playing there in April of 2010 in Seattle's farm system and started at second in his Major League debut this June.
Thus far, he's made six errors through 83 games and has otherwise looked like he's played there his entire life.
"I feel great at second base," Ackley said. "It seems like every day I feel more comfortable as I'm getting plays I haven't gotten in the past. I'm just learning from a lot of things, and when I make mistakes, I'm learning from those, too."
It's easy to forget that Ackley has only played in 83 big league games. He'll get to experience his first full season beginning next April, and the rookie is excited to feel more comfortable in the Majors.
"It'll be a lot different," he said. "Hopefully, the comfort level will be better and the confidence will be better, just for the simple fact that I've had a half-season under my belt to know what to expect. That's going to be big for me."
Taylor Soper is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.