In the last few weeks I have been weeding through the draft prospects for the 2009 draft, cutting a list of 15 players down to three possibilities for the Pittsburgh Pirates’ number four pick (the list doesn’t include Stephen Strasburg, who is number one for obvious reasons). The first finalist I will detail is Dustin Ackley.
Who He Is: Ackley is widely considered the top hitter in the 2009 draft. He played most of the season at first base for UNC, thanks to Tommy John surgery at the end of the summer in 2008 that prevented him from playing in center field. Ackley seems to be recovered from the procedure, and has been making some starts in center field, which raises his draft stock. Ackley is 6’1″, 184 pounds, and has hit over .400 for three straight seasons, with 21 homers this season in 242 at bats.
Why the Pirates Should Take Him: Ackley is the only hitter in this draft who I would have considered in the top ten picks of last year’s draft. That may not be saying much, considering the lack of talent in the draft this year as far as hitting goes, but I feel it does say something about Ackley’s talent. Ackley is a rare talent, especially if he ends up in center field. I’d rate him as the number one prospect for the Pirates, ahead of Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen. He has a great eye, which leads to strong hitting, he’s a plus defender in center field, he hits for power, and he has a lot of speed.
The Only Drawback: In my mind there is no drawback to drafting Ackley. The only drawback would be the strong possibility that he wouldn’t fall to us with the fourth pick. Seattle has been linked to him in almost every mock draft I’ve seen. If they decide to pick a pitcher, he’d have to get past San Diego, a team short on offensive prospects. It would be an incredible draft if he fell to us, but that’s starting to look very unlikely.
Potential Cost: Ackley is a Scott Boras client, however unlike Pedro Alvarez he’s not the top prospect in the draft for Boras. That doesn’t mean he’ll sign before midnight on August 15th, but it does mean we’ll receive Eric Hosmar treatment, aka, Boras won’t try to make a statement with Ackley’s contract. I’m guessing he’ll go for around $6 M, similar to what Hosmar and Matt Wieters have received in years past.
The Bottom Line: We can only hope that Seattle and San Diego balk at that price tag, and choose to select a pitcher in this pitching heavy draft. While we need pitching as well, taking Ackley would give us a huge amount of depth in the outfield. We could potentially trade away a guy like Nate McLouth, Andrew McCutchen, or Jose Tabata when Ackley arrives, getting our pitching help in that manner. That’s not counting other outfield prospects we have in the lower levels like Robbie Grossman and Wes Freeman. Plus, a 2011 offense would look great with Alvarez, Andy LaRoche, Ackley, Doumit, and two of McLouth, McCutchen, and Tabata.
Next up: Aaron Crow on Thursday. Don’t forget to vote for your ideal pick with the #4 selection in the draft. The poll is in the top right corner of the page.