Instant Offense

Mariners land draft's best hitter in Dustin Ackley at No. 2

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SEATTLE—It's not that Dustin Ackley wasn't delighted to be chosen with the second pick in the draft.

It's just that he wanted to keep his focus on what awaits him next: the College World Series.
The Mariners apparently love North Carolina's program. Besides taking Dustin Ackley No. 2 overall, they also popped two other Tar Heels with single-digit picks in grinder/hitter Kyle Seager (third round) and LHP Brian Moran (seventh), the nephew of B.J. Surhoff. Florida products SS Nick Franklin (first) and C Steve Baron (supplemental first) have up-the-middle tools at key defensive positions, and were the only preps the Mariners took in the first 13 rounds. If either one comes through, this draft could be significant, and a fine first effort for scouting director Tom McNamara.

The Mariners, on the other hand, have a much wider, long-term goal: seeing Ackley patrol center field for them on an everyday basis in just a few years.

Ackley said only that he hopes that he'll be playing at "a high level" in a couple of years, and tried to turn his focus to this weekend when North Carolina plays in the CWS for the third year running.

"It's exciting to be Seattle's first overall pick," Ackley said. "I'm excited about Omaha."

The first position player taken in the first round by the Mariners since 2005 when they tabbed Southern California catcher Jeff Clement, Ackley never has hit below .400 in his three-year college career. This season, he had batted .412/.513/.776 with 22 home runs in 63 games.

"We started following him about a year and a half ago," scouting director Tom McNamara said. "About a month ago we started to feel pretty good that he was our guy. There were a couple of other guys that were in the mix, but he stood out for us."

And the fact that Ackley is just 11 months removed from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow didn't cause the Mariners any sleepless nights. The college season began with Ackley playing first base to protect his arm, and he spent most of the season there.

"He's a center fielder," McNamara said. "We saw him a little bit in the outfield. We're comfortable with his athleticism."

Ackley was one of the few players McNamara had general manager Jack Zduriencik take a look at.

"When you bring the GM to a game," McNamara said, "you're going to be pretty sure who you are taking."

While Day One of the draft ostensibly was all about taking the best talent available, the issue will evolve quickly to signability. Ackley, whose father Josh played in the Red Sox organization, will be represented by super agent Scott Boras, who historically has dragged out the signing process for his clients until the deadline.

"(At what level) he starts depends on whether he signs early or if he signs late," Zduriencik said. "We'd like to get him signed and playing."


• The Mariners for just the third time in franchise history had two picks in the first round (1983 and 1989 were the others). They used the 27th overall pick on shortstop Nick Franklin, who hails from Lake Brantley High in Altamonte Springs, Fla., near Orlando. McNamara described Franklin, who has committed to Auburn, as a baseball equivalent of a gym rat. "He's someone who wants to play baseball all the time," McNamara said. "He's a really exciting shortstop. He's a really confident player with a lot of ability."

• With their third pick, the 33rd overall selection in the supplemental first round, the Mariners tabbed catcher Steven Baron out of Miami's Ferguson High. The centerpiece of Duke's recruiting effort, Baron received high marks from scouts for his strong defensive acumen and throwing arm.

• The Mariners selected Georgia first baseman Rich Poythress in the second round after he averaged .375 while hitting 25 homers and driving in a school record 86 RBIs. The club's final Day One pick, in round three: second baseman/third baseman Kyle Seager, a teammate of Ackley's at UNC.

• Clement's troublesome knees had improved to the point where he was catching in the bullpen for Triple-A Tacoma. He had been confined to DH since early May.

• The Seattle PostGlobe reported that team sources said righthander Brandon Morrow likely was to be sent down to Tacoma to begin being groomed for a starting role. He made a similar transition last season, too.