Jacoby Ellsbury is not worth fantasy baseball first round pick.
Let me first say that I like Jacoby Ellsbury, I always have actually. I think he is legit. He’s not the 30 home run guy like last season, but a VERY good hitter. 30 home runs won’t be his baseline, and I am pretty sure Dixon and Clave both agree there. Frankly, I don’t think 30 is a reasonable hope either.
I would set my expectations on him around 20 home runs. But I give him a higher mark on steals, closer to 40. So with Jacoby Ellsbury you have a lock for 15/30, upside of 20/40 fantasy baseball outfielder. That is pretty good but not worth a first round pick to me.
Some even have touted him as a fantasy MVP this year [*cough* Dixon *cough*]. That is a bit of a reach in my opinion.
The other night on our podcast Dixon was asking where Ellsbury’s weakness is as a hitter. I was unable to steal a few minutes to explain exactly where his weakness is. RBIs!
First and foremost I want to point out that 70 RBIs from a lead-off hitter isn’t a weakness on it’s own, it is in fact pretty good. But the reality is that Ellsbury’s line against other guys you should be drafting in round one is a glaring hole. RBIs can tend to be harder stats to come across in fantasy sports. They are unpredictable. Just like wins and saves they are products of a situation. Even the best hitters in baseball cannot come up with multiple RBIs with no one on base (See Prince Fielder‘s 83 RBIs in 2010 as an example).
We ranked Ellsbury out of our top 10, at 11, before we even knew that Ryan Braun would not be suspended. Braun certainly ranks right in the top 10, probably around 6 in my opinion. This pushes Ellsbury to 12 overall. The next 3 guys we ranked behind are Justin Upton (my MVP) Dustin Pedroia (my favorite player) and Jose Reyes ( I posted an Ask Nash about, contrasting him with Ellsbury).
If it were my pick at #12 in a snake draft – 5×5 10 team traditional league – that would put my previous pick as Evan Longoria. I’d be ok with that, but given the option between Ellsbury, Upton, Pedroia or Reyes my first pick would absolutely be Upton. With Upton we are talking 40/40 upside that is WAY better when it is with a counting stat line of 100-40-105-35 or so (I should note that we are gonna punt batting average for the sake of this argument).
Ellsbury may very well run away (see what I did there?) with the runs scored category this fantasy baseball season but he will be hard pressed to gain 75 RBIs as a lead off hitter, even in that Boston Red Sox lineup.
Think position in the lineup. To walk away out of Rounds 1 and 2 with two guys that will hit 3rd in their respective lineups is WAY more valuable than snagging possibly the best leadoff hitter in the game.
Combined Longo and Upton would be around: 200-65-200-40
Whereas Ellsbury and Longo would be: 215-50-170-50
The reality is that most guys will be drafting heart of the order guys in Rounds 1 and 2 and you will put yourself in an automatic hole in a category that is too hard to catch up in.
You can always find a sleeper that will get himself into the 2 or even 1 spot in a line up as the year progress: Lorenzo Cain, Michael Brantley or Brent Morel come to mind, but rarely do you see a guy hit his way into the 3rd spot out of nowhere.
You don’t want to put yourself in a hole in offense for something you can easily find later and, when playing with general outfield positions, runs and steals are something you can certainly find later in a draft or even as the year progresses.
The huge reason Ellsbury was an MVP for many last year was that he came of left field (or center as it were) to have a surprisingly great season and he was able to play himself into the leadoff spot thanks to a struggling Carl Crawford.
Now Ellsbury is coming off of a career year, so the likelihood that he repeats what he did last year is razor thin. You need to curb expectations of him, something I mentioned in one of my first posts when speaking of Carlos Gonzalez coming off his terrific 2010 season.
So take this away:
- Know what player/categories to skip on early. It much easier to find steals and even runs later, whereas RBIs are MUCH harder to come by.
- Reset your expectations of guys coming off of career years. If you expect a guy who FAR exceeded expectations last season to do that again you are probably going to be very disappointed.
- Where guys bat in their lineups does matter – almost as much as position scarcity – because it will dictate some of their statistical potential.