Take a look at the 32 words that may well accompany me to my grave.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I present you Jacoby Ellsbury. No player will be as valuable to fantasy teams in 2012 and by the time the season is over, it won’t be that close.
Yup, these were my words and dang if I wasn’t proud of them at the time. Looking back now, I can say that I was just a little bit off. Now, for self-preservation, I should probably stop there, but the masochist in me just won’t allow it. So, let’s take a look at Mr. Ellsbury’s numbers.
Now, if I may take some time for damage control.
Clearly when you’re in a league that features a Triple Crown winner who may not even be the league’s MVP, those kind of numbers aren’t going to cut it. But we’re not here because Jacoby Ellsbury got outdone. If Ellsbury put up great numbers only to be outdone by the likes of Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout, there wouldn’t be much to analyze. But as you can see, that was clearly not the case. So, let’s take a look at what happened:
What Went Wrong?
Well, Ellsbury played on the 2012 Red Sox. That in and of itself is a big part of what went wrong. Part of what made me so sure that he was a lock for another great year is that he would have guys like Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, David Ortiz, and possibly a resurgent Carl Crawford hitting behind him.
Well, Crawford played decent when he was on the field, but that was only for 31 games. Gonzalez had a sub par year for his standards, although was still a solid run producer. Both men are now Dodgers.
Youkilis has been a player in decline for a few seasons. This year he underperformed in Boston and after playing 42 games, got dealt to the Sox of a different color.
Ortiz was actually having a very strong season, but only played in 90 games, missing the rest due to injury. In comparison to those guys, Pedroia was healthy, but still missed over 20 games. When he was in the lineup, Pedroia produced, but not nearly enough. Then again, if Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, and Cy Young produced a lovechild (don’t ask me how that would happen), he wouldn’t have done enough for the Red Sox this season.
He certainly wouldn’t have helped Ellsbury, who was only on the field for 74 games. When I look back at our collective 2012 projections, I see a lot of guys who we overrated, but most of them were overrated because of health. Unless someone’s health becomes a consistent problem (Youkilis, Alex Rodriguez), you really can’t assume that injuries will happen.
Do I like him in 2013?
This is an interesting question. First, let’s take a look at some of his strengths and weaknesses, then I’ll tell you whether I like him or not.
Ellsbury won’t turn 30 until late in the 2013 campaign. He didn’t just forget how to play. Remember, in 2011, this was a 30/30 guy. Would anyone care to guess how many players did that in 2012? Two. Mike Trout and Ryan Braun. In 2011, you had Ellsbury, Braun, Ian Kinsler, and Matt Kemp. We are talking about a player with elite potential.
The fact is that 2011 was not that long ago. Now, I won’t sit here and tell you that age and injuries won’t slow him down a little bit, but how much? He only played in 74 games this year and still swiped 14 bags. At that pace, he’d steal 28 in 148 and still have 14 games remaining.
Another strength is Fenway Park, and the American League East in general. It’s not a great pitcher’s division, largely because of the parks these guys have to pitch in. Hitters with Ellsbury’s talent will do well there, especially when motivated.
What’s that about motivation? It just so happens that 2013 happens to be Ellsbury’s contract year. I have never known of a player who slacked off in his contract season. And according to Sean McAdam of CSN New England, Ellsbury is likely to stay a free agent:
One major league executive, asked recently about the chances of the Sox getting Ellsbury to agree to a contract extension before he reaches free agency, replied without hesitation: “Zero.”
If Ellsbury has a rough 2013 season, teams will see him as a 30-year-old speed based player coming off of two bad seasons. Scott Boras can get his players some nice deals, but that will drop his price tag significantly. Ellsbury knows this and will come out motivated to show that 2011 is the season people can expect from him.
Well, the Red Sox are a weakness. Ellsbury doesn’t have the same kind of weapons around him in Boston that he had at the beginning of 2012. Again, Youkilis, Gonzalez, and Crawford are all gone. That leaves and old and injury prone Ortiz, and Pedroia. Now, I believe the Sox have a bright future, but the team will go through some growing pains in 2013, which is what we’re looking at.
Also, if you remember earlier, I cited A-Rod and Youkilis as examples of players that you need to account injuries for in their projections? Ellsbury isn’t far from that territory.
Yes, 2011 was great, but if you take his games played 2010 and 2012 and add them together, you get 92. A player in his late 20’s who’s missed great amounts of two of the last three seasons has to be a warning flag.
Just before the above quote from McAdam, he says one other thing that needs to be noted.
Further, the team may have to investigate trading Jacoby Ellsbury for pitching.
Now, it’s likely that a team trading for Ellsbury will have good talent around him, but what kind of park do they play in? That’s just something we don’t know and won’t have a firm grasp of until the Hot Stove Season is here.
Fortunately, your draft will be after that but even if he remains in Boston, a possible trade will loom over him all year, especially if the Red Sox are not in contention. Who knows how he’ll respond to constant trade rumors? If he is dealt, how will he play? If he isn’t and knows that Boston isn’t in his future beyond 2013, how will he play? These are serious question marks.
–Final 2013 Verdict
Pay attention to some mocks and projections, but I have a feeling that Ellsbury’s value will be comparatively low next season. If that’s the case, you can get an absolute steal. I am a big believer in this guy and that players in the final of the year of their contracts are capable of incredible things.
But you can’t draft Ellsbury without a good backup plan. The fact of the matter is that he’s a huge injury risk and is no longer the darling player in Boston that he once was. So, let’s say this: I like Ellsbury’s 2013 prospects, but I don’t believe he’s a player to be patient with.