Friday, November 14, 2008

Is Jacoby Ellsbury A Keeper?

Coming into this past season, if you had asked me to rank the Red Sox three big youngsters as far as how they'll perform in 2008, I'd have probably said something like this:
  1. Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. Clay Buchholz
  3. Dustin Pedroia
Buchholz was generally a fantasy bust (though he's got plenty of time to work it out), and Pedroia is an MVP candidate. Ellsbury, however, falls somewhere in the middle, and thus we ask, is Ellsbury worth keeping?

First things first, let's define what kind of player he is. He's a speed guy, who should also provide a good batting average and solid runs, being on a pretty potent offensive team. You don't expect him to get much in the way of HR or RBI, so he's obviously not going to be an elite player, but if he can post solid AVG, R, and SB numbers, he might be keeper-worthy. So can he?

Ellsbury hit .353 in a brief stint in 2007, but that dropped down to .280 in his first full season. He did, however, post a fantastic 50 steals in 2008, and that may even improve as he gets a better sense of pitchers and fielders. He scored 98 runs, which is good, but somehow you'd think that the guy leading off for the Red Sox would break 100. I expect him to do that next year, with a slightly improved batting average. I also think that, while his RBI totals will probably stay pretty low, he'll show off a little more power.

Even without a bump in his power numbers, though, Ellsbury is a keeper. It's always wise to invest in potent offenses, and Boston's has been among the best for several years now. Ellsbury figures to grow into the leadoff role, which should have him crossing home plate a few more times next year. You'll need to make sure you draft some power to counter a weakish outfield position, but pair up Ellsbury with Uggla and you've got a nice little combo.

Projected stats: .295, 100 R, 15 HR, 60 RBI, 60 SB

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