Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jacoby Ellsbury not Worth a Fantasy First Round Pick

Here’s the thing about Jacoby Ellsbury. He’s a fine player who will rightfully be a starting outfielder in every fantasy league. Heck, he may even be on several championship winning teams. But drafting Jaocby comes with a few caveats.

  1. You MUST consider the risk of injury. Yes, this is true with every player, and plenty of the top guys have their own injury baggage. But Jacoby’s injury history takes a back seat to none of them.
  2. DO NOT consider adding Ellsbury unless you know that your team will produce plenty of power.

Obviously, the threat of someone possibly not even playing 100 games is a pretty good deterrent from drafting him in the first round. The second caveat is even stronger. You can have your targets, but you don’t know that your other guys will have power in the first round because, well, it’s the first round. You don’t know who else is on the team.

Now if you’re an Ellsbury fan, you may be wondering what my exact beef is with the guy. After all, he had a Mike Trout-esque season in 2011, before we even knew who Mike Trout was. I’m certainly aware of that and I don’t forget that coming off of that season, I predicted that Ellsbury would be the fantasy MVP in 2012. Swing and a a miss.

The problem with building your team around Jacoby Ellsbury (as his No. 7 overall ranking by ESPN suggests you should do) is how skewed his power numbers are to that great 2011 season. 

Jacoby Ellsbury, Career HR Splits


Now, it is important to remember that by leaving the Red Sox and signing with the New York Yankees, Ellsbury is leaving a park that promotes right-handed power and kills left-handed power for one that does the exact opposite. This is of course relevant for a lefty like Ellsbury.

Fortunately, him playing for the Boston Red Sox means played plenty of games in the new Yankee Stadium since it opened in 2009. So, just what do those power splits tell us? 

Jacoby Ellsbury, Yankee Stadium


Well the ratios are certainly better, but we’re seriously skewing towards 2011 with those splits.

The fact of the matter is that when healthy, Ellsbury’s generally fallen under the umbrella of guy you draft for steals and a good average while considering any power he generates a bonus.

An optimist could point out that he could have generated more power when on the field. That’s certainly possible but keep this in mind. Ellsbury has topped 600 at-bats four times in his career and only topped double-digit home runs once. The 2011 season was his power outlier.

Now, when I think of Jacoby Ellsbury’s negatives, the lack of power is the one thing that comes to my mind, but do consider a few other points.

  • While a fine hitter, Ellsbury is a .297 hitter who’s only topped .300 twice in his career (three times if you consider 2007 when he was called up halfway through), and not at all since 2011. His average since 2011 is .289.
  • Ellsbury’s primary value has always been as a base-stealer. He nabbed 52 bases in 2013 and might have had a chance at 60 if he didn’t miss 28 games, so there’s not much negative to say. Just remember that he’s now 30 and has a history of injuries, and stolen bases are impacted by both of those more than pretty much any other stat.

Again, I’m not saying he’s a bad player. But we have Jacoby Ellsbury ranked No. 27 in our overall rankings. By that, he’d probably be a mid-late round third rounder, depending on the size of your league.

Personally, I push him back a full round. You can get your hands on a Coco CrispBrett Gardner, Angel Pagan, or Carl Crawford type of player and not miss that much. Ellsbury will steal more bases, but that’s by far the easiest offensive category to make up ground in, as plenty of big base stealers stay on the waiver wire well into the season. Not the case with other stats.

Because he plays a premium position at a Gold Glove level, Ellsbury falls into the “much better real player than fantasy player” window. He’ll be a fantasy contributor but realistically if you take him in the Top-30, you’re likely to end up regretting it.

See Ellsbury live by grabbing NY Yankees tickets.

Tags: Jacoby Ellsbury MLB New York Yankees Outfield

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