Monday, February 17, 2014

Player Assessment: Jacoby Ellsbury

Jacoby Ellsbury was by far the most unexpected signing of the Yankees off-season splash. Ellsbury was the first in what was a week of signings galore for the Yankees, where they quickly followed the Ellsbury signing with the Carlos Beltran announcement. On the scale of off-season needs for the Yankees, Ellsbury was probably near the bottom but felt that they needed a player like Jacoby to bring fans into the seats. I personally do not believe Ellsbury has much drawing power but is plays as dynamically as he did in Boston he will be a crowd favorite despite coming over from the dark side. The Yankees fans have a rich history of embracing former Boston players; whether it be Johnny Damon or Wade Boggs. Almost each Red Sox turned Yankee loved their tenure in pinstripes after playing for the Yankees' long-time rivals.

The Yankees signed Ellsbury to a seven-year deal worth $153 million which brings his yearly salary to almost $22 million, far more than he is worth if you go based on every year that isn't 2011. In 2011, Ellsbury had a year in which he led the Red Sox in almost every meaningful offensive category, coming in second in the MVP voting to Justin Verlander who had a historic year for the Tigers that same season. In 2011, Ellsbury had 32 home runs, drove in 105 runners and hit an incredible .321. Every year other than 2011, Ellsbury has been strictly a speed guy, stealing anywhere from 50 to 70 bases when healthy. However, the operative word in the last sentence is healthy. Jacoby needs to prove that he can be a durable player. The Yankees are paying him to be gritty and pesky, but if he can't stay on the field for more than 100 games per season the contract will be a huge bust for the money he is owed through 2020.

The Yankees signed Ellsbury to play center field for them, with Gardner waiting in the wings if something were to happen to Jacoby. Ellsbury and Gardner together in the outfield is an opposing hitter's nightmare, as the pair will act as vacuums catching everything hit in their direction, poised for some highlight reel catches and plays. If Ellsbury can hit 15 home runs while maintaining a .300 average and stealing 50 bases the Yankees will consider the signing a huge success. If Ellsbury repeats what he did for Boston in 2011, this will be a steal for the Yankees, even at almost $22 million per year. Again, if he stays healthy he is one of the most dynamic players in baseball, and will also serve as a pitcher's nightmare especially if he and Gardner are hitting back-to-back in the lineup with Ellsbury leading off the game for the Yankees. In addition, his power should translate well to the short porch in right because Yankee Stadium is conducive to lefty hitters whereas Fenway Park was nicer to right handed power. Ellsbury has always been in the thorn in the side of Yankees pitching over the years, so it will be glorious watching him do the same thing for the Yankees instead of against them.

My predictions for Jacoby Ellsbury in 2014: .298 AVG, 14 HR, 79 RBI, 52 SB

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