Jacoby Ellsbury Yankees: Evaluating Signing From Fantasy Perspective

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball’s most intense rivalry just got a nice little twist, as according to Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News, Jacoby Ellsbury will be leaving the World Series champion Boston Red Sox to sign with the New York Yankees.

I’m sure you can find plenty of takes on this from either team’s perspective. But we’re not looking at this from an overpay/underpay perspective, or a Yankees-Red Sox rivalry perspective. Nope, here, we’re going to look at this from a fantasy perspective in 2014.

  • The Question: Is this a good thing or a bad thing for Jacoby’s stats?
  • The answer:  Given the kind of player that Jacoby is, this move is actually a slight downgrade for now, although the Yankees can change that in the off-season.

 

Why I don’t like it

First off, I want to clarify that I don’t hate this move, I just think Ellsbury would have been better off with teams that are more known at this point. MLB Depth Charts currently has the Yankees lineup looking like this:

  1. Brett Gardner
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Jacoby Ellsbury
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Brian McCann
  6. Alfonso Soriano
  7. Ichiro Suzuki
  8. Eduardo Nunez
  9. Brendan Ryan

It’s certainly not a bad group, but the two players sandwiching Jacoby played in a combined 32 games in 2013, while McCann missed 60 games in 2013 and Gardner played in only 16 in 2012. Mind you, that doesn’t even factor in Ellsbury’s own injury history, which we won’t really get into here because it’s got nothing to do with the Yankees and is something that fantasy owners needed to consider no matter where he landed.

But even if Jacoby does play a full year, I can’t help but wonder how many games the guys around him are going to play. That doesn’t even factor in the decline in skill that some of those guys have shown in recent years.

Now, there’s one looming question that I’m sure some of you are asking. I know I did when I saw that Jacoby would be donning the pinstripes. What does this mean for Robinson Cano? That’s still unclear, although Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports does indicate that the possibility of them being teammates is still there.

All off-season, I’ve felt that Cano would return to the Yankees. Ultimately, I still feel that way, even if those feelings have taken a bit of a hit over the last few days. If it happens, it’d make me feel better about Jacoby, as Robby has been durable and an exceptional heart-of-the-order guy for quite some time now, as these numbers would suggest.  

Season
R
HR
RBI
SB
AVG
200910325855.320
2010103291093.319
2011104281188.302
201210533943.313
201381271077.314
Average99281035.314

I can only speculate on how Joe Girardi would order his lineup, but I’m guessing the go-to lineup would look something like this.

  1. Jacoby Ellsbury
  2. Derek Jeter
  3. Robinson Cano
  4. Mark Teixeira
  5. Brian McCann
  6. Alfonso Soriano
  7. Ichiro Suzuki
  8. Eduardo Nunez
  9. Brett Gardner

Regardless of order, if you have Gardner, Ellsbury, Cano, and McCann batting in that kind of proximity together, teams with good left-handed relievers won’t have a terribly hard time matching up against them late in games. If that happens, it potentially really limits the number of at-bats where all of those hitters (including Ellsbury) would have a good chance of putting up good numbers. Obviously, that’s not a good thing for his fantasy value.

So here’s the next question:

Is there anything I like about it?

Sure. That’s certainly not a bad lineup of players to have around you. Even if those guys are in decline, you have to figure that Ellsbury will have plenty of chances to bolster his numbers throughout the year. As many as in Boston? Probably not, but certainly more than a few other teams out there.

I’d like this move a lot more if Ellsbury had more of a power game, as Yankee Stadium is a lot better for left-handed power guys than Fenway Park is. Certainly someone could point out the 2011 season when Ellsbury hit 32 home runs in 660 at-bats and say that Ellsbury has power. It’s true that he was phenomenal that year, but look at the rest of his career. 

Year
2007
2008
2009
2010
2012
2013
Total
HR Total39804933
At Bats116554624783035772252
That 2011 season is not only a gigantic Outlier, but it’s just under half of his career HR total.

Now, I won’t say that Ellsbury will fail to hit 10 home runs. As he gets a little older, his game will change into more of a power based based game and with that, he’ll take advantage of the short right field fence more and more.

One other thing I like: The fact that they’ve spent so much money on guys like McCann and Ellsbury this off-season tells me that the Yankees are in a win-now mode. With that, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did make some more moves to erase some of the questions that surround the lineup.

The problem as it relates to Ellsbury’s fantasy value is that there are a lot of questions.

  • Will he be healthy?
  • Will the guys around him be healthy?
  • How good is the best-case scenario?
  • How bad is the worst-case scenario?

Ellsbury is a fine player, but as far as his fantasy value goes, those questions are too valid and I don’t like the very possible answers to any of them. There are positives to take from this but if you own Jacoby Ellsbury in a keeper league, I’d advise that you look to sell high on him right now. You may end up regretting it if he does well, but not anywhere near as much as you will if you keep him and he busts.

Topics: Jacoby Ellsbury, New York Yankees

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