Ackley shines on defense in first full season

Ackley shines on defense in first full season

MINNEAPOLIS -- While Dustin Ackley's early-season offensive struggle and recent improvement have been well chronicled, less noticed has been the young second baseman's steadily consistent development with the glove.

Ackley, in his first full year in the Majors, has made several outstanding plays in recent days. But he's also been getting progressively better since he moved to second base two years ago and his current Ultimate Zone Rating by FanGraphs is second in the Majors and tops in the American League at his position at 8.9.

Last year, Ackley's UZR was 2.3 for the half season he spent with the Mariners.

"He's played a really good second base for us and now he's even extended beyond that in regard to his range and making the great play or the big play here or there," manager Eric Wedge said. "He's been very, very consistent for us."

Ackley, 24, made an excellent play in Tuesday's 5-2 win over the Twins when he shifted quickly to his left to stab a hard shot by Justin Morneau in the second inning, then spun and got Josh Willingham going to second to help Hisashi Iwakuma stay out of trouble after Iwakuma hit Willingham leading off the inning.

Half of the battle on that play, according to Ackley, was shading Morneau already a step or two to his left, which allowed him to get to that ball in the first place.

"I feel like I'm a lot further along than I was a year ago," he said. "I was more worried then about just catching the ball rather than where it was going. Now I'm starting to figure things out.

"After you see these guys time and again, you start to see what they do and what our pitchers are and what their strengths are. So you know maybe where they're going to hit the ball and you get that extra step before they even make contact. I think that's real important and I'm coming along as far as that goes."