There are three, distinct things that seemed glaringly odd when it became official that the New York Yankees had come to terms with former Boston Red Sox OF, Jacoby Ellsbury, on a 7-year, $153M contract back in December.
1. Jacoby Ellsbury signed a contract with…THE NEW YORK YANKEES.
2. New York invested in Ellsbury for 7 years.
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3. The Yankees agreed to pay $21M per year over the course of the contract
Anyone not new to baseball is completely aware that the Yankees will overpay players by $50M just to prove a point and to ensure that they get their man. This could very well be one of those moves as the Yankees landed a CF replacement for the recently departed Curtis Granderson all the while giving the one finger salute to the Red Sox organization. Loyal Yankee fans far and wide will probably not agree with that last statement but it couldn’t be any truer. Now, the MLB has no salary cap in place so the Yankees aren’t doing anything wrong. However, the amount of money spent on a player doesn’t always translate to an equal return on investment.
Last season, Jacoby Ellsbury produced the following stat line: 577 AB, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 92 R, 52 SB, .298 BA and .781 OPS. Ellsbury finished last season as the #3 OF on ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater. The near .300 BA and 50+ SB’s play a large role in that ranking but how many of you play in H2H leagues as opposed to roto? That stolen base total spread across a 21 week fantasy regular season equates to only 2.48 SB’s per week. With speed steadily becoming an easier commodity to find, savvy fantasy owners have many options to fill a void that small. This becomes more apparent if you were to theoretically reduce the 52 SB’s down to 37 (-15) if that were to ensure that the HR total would increase from 9 up to 24 (+15), you still with me? If you are, I ask you this…which stat line looks better: 9/52 or 24/37? It’s safe to say that most owners would select the latter part of that question.
What truly boggles the mind is that the following OF’s are all capable of providing quality speed with more power than Ellsbury produces. Mike Trout (27/33), Andrew McCutchen (21/27), Carlos Gonzalez (26/21), Adam Jones (33/14), Ryan Braun (9/4 in only 225 AB’s), Carlos Gomez (24/40), Bryce Harper (20/11), Alex Rios (18/22), etc. all provided significant levels of power and speed last year. Fast forward to 2014 and Jacoby Ellsbury is being ranked as a 1st round draft selection and even as high as #6 overall. Let us not forget that the list of players just mentioned were OF’s only so we weren’t even factoring in the likes of Paul Goldschmidt (36/15) and Hanley Ramirez (20/10 in only 304 AB’s). It seems apparent that Ellsbury may not even be a top-5 OF let alone a borderline top-5 player, overall.
You are probably thinking that this article has only focused on two statistical categories, that being HR’s and SB’s. Well, Ellsbury’s BA certainly helped propel him to a #3 OF ranking on ESPN’s 2013 Player Rater. Other than Bryce Harper’s .274 BA and Alex Rios’ .278 BA, every other player listed above batted .284 or higher with an overall average of .307. Again, is Ellsbury’s .298 BA that amazing when compared to the plethora of OF’s that will hit for the same, if not higher average, still swipe 25+ bags, but hit for much more power? Now we’ve come to the point of the article where everyone points to the short right field porch at Yankee Stadium and proclaims a grand rise in power. Well, the right field fence at Fenway Park is 302 feet away from home plate and stands between 3 and 5 feet tall. The same fence at Yankee Stadium is 314 feet away from home plate and stands between 5 and 7 feet tall. Am I missing something here? Ellsbury is also a hitter that utilizes the entire field and certainly wouldn’t be labeled as a pull hitter, anyway.
Lastly, the biggest knock on Jacoby Ellsbury is the amount of time that he spends on the disabled list. Over the past 5 seasons Ellsbury has missed a total of 273 games which averages out to 54.6 missed games per season (or almost four trips to the 15-day DL). The type of player you want to select with a first round draft selection is a player that is stable and dependable; an offensive nucleus in which to build your team around. The first round is not the place to draft players that are consistently injured, having recently switched teams and have the tendency to provide solid seasons every other year.
The intention of this article is not to criticize Jacoby Ellsbury because he is a very good ball player. However, the intention of this article is to open your eyes and ask that you place players into tiers of equivalent talent. When performing this action, it can become apparent that a player is providing value that can be found rounds later. Never stop challenging pre-season rankings…
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Joe Costello is the MLB Content Manager for @FakeSeamHead, the baseball division of the immensely talented @FakePigSkin crew. I can be contacted at @jcswigga to answer any of your fantasy baseball or football questions (I play that, too). I am also the commissioner for both baseball and football leagues so feel free to drop me a line on the most thankless job in the industry.