Mariners prospect Dustin Ackley named Arizona Fall League MVP

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Mariners prospect second baseman Dustin Ackley was named the MVP of the Arizona Fall League today, according to Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.

Ackley, last year’s No. 2 overall pick, compiled a modest .267 batting average to go along with a .368 on-base percentage and an underwhelming .407 slugging percentage in 134 games between Double-A West Tennessee and Triple-A Tacoma this past season, but is back on track as a legit prospect after tearing up the AFL.

The 22-year-old led the league with a .424 batting average, .581 on-base percentage, .758 slugging percentage, 1.338 OPS and 28 runs scored. In addition to hitting four homers and driving in 15 runs, he also went a perfect 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts.

“That’s an awesome feeling,” Ackley said of receiving the award before Saturday’s championship game. “In April, I didn’t think I could hit any more. As far as I’ve come, with hitting and defense, it’s really special. I watched Grant Desme win it last year, the MVP, and he had put up great numbers during the season and in the Fall League. It’s really special to take it in after him.”

Ackley didn’t have it easy in his first professional season, beginning the year at Double-A while also making the transition to second base. There are still questions about his power and his glove, but he has plate discipline well beyond his years, as evidenced by his 90/101 K/BB ratio during his time between the minors and the Arizona Fall League.

Ackley will enter spring training with a chance to make the Opening Day roster, but Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik told FOXSports.com that he could need some more fine tuning in the minor leagues. Perhaps he’ll change his mind somewhere around Memorial Day next year?

By the way, if you are jonesin’ for some real live baseball, the AFL title game between Ackley’s Peoria Javelinas and Bryce Harper and the Scottsdale Scorpions can be seen right now on MLB.com and MLB Network.

Diamondbacks return Rule 5 pick Tyler Jones to Yankees

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Diamondbacks’ right-hander Tyler Jones is headed back to the Yankees, the teams announced on Friday. The Diamondbacks had previously selected Jones in the Rule 5 draft last December, but elected to leave the 27-year-old off of their 40-man roster heading into the 2017 season. Rule 5 draft rules stipulate that when a player is not kept on the receiving team’s roster, the player must be offered back to his original team.

Jones signed a minor league contract with the Yankees prior to the 2016 season. He pitched to an impressive 2.17 ERA, 2.2 BB/9 and 13.2 SO/9 over 45 2/3 innings with Double-A Trenton, but was unable to make the leap to Triple-A or beyond during his stay with the organization.

Jones’ outlook with the Diamondbacks appeared slightly more promising. GM Mike Hazen described the righty as a power arm with a “good fastball and power curveball” after selecting him in the Rule 5 draft, and early reports indicated that Jones would be in the mix for a bullpen spot. A rough spring performance — underscored by his lack of experience at the Triple-A and major league levels — undid most of that confidence, however, and the Diamondbacks weren’t willing to keep him on the active roster throughout the entire 2017 season in order to acquire his control rights.

Jones is set to open the season with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, per a report from the Yankees.

Derek Norris signing with the Rays

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Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown reports that Derek Norris is signing with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Norris was released by the Nationals nine days ago, made redundant by the Nats’ signing of Matt Wieters and by everyone sliding down a notch on the depth chart below him. Norris hit only .186/.255/.328 with 14 home runs and a .528 OPS for the Padres in 2016.

Still, there always seems to be a place for a backup catcher. For Norris that place is Tampa Bay.