Will Jacoby Ellsbury Run Wild in 2009?

Jacoby Ellsbury finished third in the majors with 50 SB last year. Along with his 98 runs scored and his .280 batting average, Ellsbury posted a $21.55 dollar value last year, according to the RotoTimes Player Rater. That was the 32nd-best season by a fantasy hitter last year. The mock drafters are not completely sold on Ellsbury, giving him an ADP of 57 according to the latest update over at Mock Draft Central.

Ellsbury made 129 starts last year, a figure that should go up with Coco Crisp no longer around to siphon off playing time. That should translate into better counting numbers, including steals. As for his average, all five of the projection systems see him besting his .280 of a season ago. Last year, Ellsbury had a .314 BABIP, a reasonable number given his speed, groundball tendencies (51.7%) and line drive rate (20.3%).

Ichiro Suzuki is a similar player to Ellsbury. Here are their fantasy lines from 2008:

IS – .310-6-42-103-43
JE – .280-9-47-98-50

Now, 30 points of average is a big difference but is it worth 29 slots of ADP? Certainly, Ichiro has more of a track record and could realistically post an even higher AVG in 2009. But Ellsbury could see a boost in his numbers thanks to both the expected playing time bump and the normal improvement from a young player. Would a 60-SB, 110-R season from Ellsbury be a surprise?

Ellsbury is not going to be a big threat in either HR or RBI. But with above average production in runs along with one of the best SB totals in the game he should provide great value for fantasy players, especially given his current ADP.

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35 Responses to “Will Jacoby Ellsbury Run Wild in 2009?”

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  1. This is the exact same comparison I use when I hear people bragging about drafting Ichiro Suzuki?
    Why not use that second/third round pick to grab a power bat WITH some speed, and draft Jacoby Ellsbury three rounds later?

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  2. I tend to side with Peter Bendix on this one: Ichiro’s average is going to hover right around the .300 mark this season. He’s getting older, and if Ellsbury gets a little stronger and faster this year, he’ll come very close to matching him at the very least. Also troubling is Ichiro’s AL-highest 14.86 TWBHU (Teammates Wishing to Beat Him Up).

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  3. Jim says:

    When I read the title, I thought this would be another “Is Jayson Werth worth a draft pick” type article, but you make a good point that it doesn’t make sense to draft Ichiro 30 slots ahead of Ellsbury, when Ellsbury will in all likelihood have the better season. He will also probably hit a few more homeruns than Ichiro.

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  4. LantermanC says:

    I just drafted Ellsbury yesterday, so thanks for this article.
    Though no one really seems to be a real good comparison to Ichiro!, Ellsbury seems to be the best one out there.
    Both players seem to have a lot of their value tied up in non-fantasy categories though, mainly defense and base running.

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    • Jim says:

      What kind of leagues do you play in where stolen bases aren’t a category?

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      • LantermanC says:

        I meant base running besides stolen bases, like going from 1st to 3rd, which both guys seem to be really good at. Sorry for the confusion.

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  5. Alex Roberts says:

    Brian, For this analysis to be correct you are banking on Ichiro having one of his lowest BAs of his career. For perhaps the most consistent baseball player of the past decade, this is a pretty strong assumption to make. What are the peripherals which you guys love that show Ichiro falling off? I mean he was 34 when he battted 350!!! So really being 35-36 for a guy as lean, well conditioned and steady as him isn’t as big a difference as it might be with power hitters.

    If Ichiro bats 320+ he will be 2-3 rounds more valuable than Ellsbury will, even if Ellsbury steals 15 more bags than him. 60 steals for Ellsbury is very questionable, in my opinion Ellsbury going 60-110 in steals and runs is much less likely than Ichiro batting 325.

    Now, all this being said, I would draft neither Ichiro in the 2nd or Ellsbury in the 4th, but if I had to pay one round of value to take Ichiro over Ellsbury, no doubt about it.

    I would be on Ichiro putting up 320-5-55-110-35

    Ellsbury going 285-8-60-100-50

    AVG is by far the hardest category to make up ground in in a fantasy league so it makes a much bigger difference than steals.

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    • Mike Ketchen says:

      “average is bar far the hardest to make up” I disagree completley. Does this mean you avoid Howard/Dunn/Pena types? Also what are you basing his .320 avg being far more valuable on? Razzball.com player rater has Ichiro at $20 worth of value and $18 for Ellsbury in a 12 team. Also keep in mind Ichiro played in 15 more games then Jacoby.

      The overall point is Ichiro has long been one of the best examples of over drafted talent out there. He is a three cat player that ppl tend to draft in the first three rounds.

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      • Alex Roberts says:

        Mike – honestly i don’t care what Razzball.com player rater says. Each source, every mag, every site, they are all basing their analysis on projecttions and their predictions for certain players. It is all subjective. I fail to see why the fact that they’re two dollars apart is in any way more valid than my own opinion. I’m just trying to point out various facts and draw conclusions from that. Mine are suspect, so are their.

        “Does this mean you avoid Howard/Dunn/Pena types?”

        Well, I do, yes. I would never draft howard in the top 10 and wouldn’t look at Dunn until round 6 or 7 earliest. Pena forget about it – round 11.

        I’m not saying everyone should, though. So you disagree with AVG being the hardes stat to make up ground in but don’t tell me why or give an alternative???

        “Also what are you basing his .320 avg being far more valuable on?”

        I’ll tell you why. Avg, simply, can’t be picked up in the waiver wire. It is possible to stream pitchers carefully, or start a greater number of relievers, to get more K/IP and better whip / era / saves and even wins. Pitching stats are all more controlable than hitting stats because there is much much greater roster flexibility – in day to day leagues at least.

        With hitters – you tell me – is it easier to pick a 40 steal guy off the waiver wire or a 320 hitter who will get you 450 ab over the course of the year. A guy on a hot streak might get you 4 bombs in one week which in most leagues is about 2% of your total at years end. You know these types, they always arise for a few weeks here or there and you can pounce and grab some extra production. But AVG???? It just doesn’t fall off the tree that easily. A guy on a hot streak might bat 500 for a week, but that just doesn’t help your team’s final AVG as much as the 4 bombs do, relatively. The gains in HR, R and RBI and ST are all more tangible than the gains in AVG from one good week from one player.

        Back to Ichiro – Ellsbury. IMO, it is much easier to make up the 15 steals that Ellsbury gives you than it is to make up 40 points of AVG. Ichiro is a 330 hitter for his career. He is one season removed from a 350 campaign. He is the most consistent non-steroid player of the past decade and a lock as a first ballot hall of fame. You think he’s gonna bat 300? Your guess, stay away from him then. If he goes 320-5-50-100-35, he is a solid 3rd round pick. AVG like that doesn’t grow on trees and he is by far the best player in his class of players.

        Ichiro in his good years makes having a guy like howard or dunn on your team ok because he balances them out so nicely. Otherwise with a serious low-avg guy like that you have to rejig more than one position to gain the loss back.

        Just my thoughts of course. I take Ichiro in the mid-3rd and Ellsbury no earlier than the mid of the 5th.

        The overall point is Ichiro has long been one of the best examples of over drafted talent out there. He is a three cat player that ppl tend to draft in the first three rounds.

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      • Alex Roberts says:

        that last line was yours, obviously.

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      • Jim says:

        Alex, it seems like you just pulled that out of thin air. How is average the hardest thing to find on the waiver wire? Do you have any proof to back that up? Because in my experience, any category can be found on the waiver wire…you just have to look. The only strict rule I hold myself to is not drafting pitchers early. Other than that, I don’t think it really matters whether you go for lots of power and an OK average or a good average and less power. I think it is a much safer bet to focus less on average and more on the counting stats though, because average is definitely the most inconsistent fantasy stat for any given player from year to year. You know Dunn is going to give you around 40 homeruns, but is he going to hit .230 or .265? You know Ichiro will give you 30+ steals, but will he hit .310 and .370? It’s impossible to predict….

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    • funkybass says:

      “60 steals for Ellsbury is very questionable”

      That’s laughable. RTFA, in ’08 he stole 50 in 129 starts. Realistically he has a very good chance for 60 SB being their starting CF. He’d have to drop off badly in OBP for him not to get 10 more bags in 20-30 extra starts.

      Having traded Crisp the Sox are putting their faith in this guy; they seem to know their homegrown players pretty well and to expect big things from JE. Keep in mind his ’08 BA may reflect pitchers adjusting against rookie hitters too. I think he’ll hover around .300 most of the season.

      Although I agree that Ichiro is more valuable in general, I wouldn’t pick him above JE, simply because he’ll probably get fewer RBI opportunities… but that’s just me.

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  6. nilodnayr says:

    How about a comparion of Ellsbury vs Willy Taveras? I agree that Ellsbuy is the better value than Ichiro 30 picks earlier, but what about Taveras coming in about 100 picks later than Ellsbury?

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    • Matt B. says:

      Honestly, the Sox faithful will hate this comp, but its probably pretty fair to this point…

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    • I think that a comp between Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gomez and Wily Taveras would be more in line.

      Bases solely on DRAFT/AUCTION VALUE, Gomez in my opinion would be the best choice, he’s not an early pick like Ellsbury, representing greater draft value, while producing similar if not better power numbers, and 30+sb speed. He’s not a detriment to your batting average, and other counting stats like Taveras is, thanks to his many hollow and futile AB.

      Would anyone else, pass on Ellsbury for Gomez?

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      • Jim says:

        Hell no. Ellsbury/Taveras and Ellsbury/Gomez are both very bad comps.

        Taveras will give you steals and runs, and absolutely nothing else. He will absolutely murder HR and RBI, along with hurting average. If you have OBP in your league, he will kill your OBP.

        Ellsbury will put up 10-12 homeruns, and steal just as many bases. He will give you a very good average and a great OBP. There is no contest between Ellsbury and Taveras. Ellsbury is better in every single category by a considerable margin, except steals where they are the same.

        The Ellsbury/Gomez comp is also very bad. Ellsbury will steal 25-30 more bases than Gomez, trump him in average and probably score more runs because of his higher OBP and the better lineup he hits in front of.

        Ellsbury/Suzuki is much more accurate, because where Suzuki hits for a higher average, Ells hits a few more homeruns and steals 20 more bases.

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      • Rocky says:

        Well guys…Taveras sucked it up even worse than I thought he would, and Gomez was barely better. Meanwhile, Ellsbury stole 70 and improved his average. But you got Taveras 100 picks later, what a steal!

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    • Jim says:

      Also, there is no way Taveras comes close to 50 stolen bases next year, and Ellsbury will at least maintain, and most likely increase his SB total from last year. So he is just an awful fantasy player.

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      • Isaac says:

        Really? There’s no way Tavares comes close to 50 SB? He plays in the GAP and his manager is Dusty Baker. He stole 68 bases last year while posting a career low OBP. I’ll take the over.

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      • R M says:

        Epic Fail.

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    • Jim says:

      I would rather just pick Rajai Davis or Brett Gardner up off the waiver wire than waste a 12th round pick on Taveras.

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      • Dave says:

        so… you take back your horrible prediction right?

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      • Jim says:

        What makes you say that? He averaged 33 stolen bases a season from 2005-2007, a span of three years. He stole 68 bases last year. Maybe I’m a skeptic, but I don’t take just last year when making predictions for the future. That happens way too much. The year after A-Rod hit 54 homeruns, he was the concensus 1st overall pick. In 2008, he came crashing back to earth. This year, Pujols is the concensus first overall pick based on his .357 average, but I bet you anything he will not maintain last year’s production in 2009. Sure, he will still be great, but not first overall pick great.

        You are valuing Taveras on a season that does not line up with the rest of his career, and I think that is a dangerous move.

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      • R M says:

        Yeah, that was really a horrible prediction….Taveras is really ripping up the basepaths with 16 stolen bases at the all-star break…not to mention his .240 average and sub-.300 OBP.

        BTW, I’m Jim…just using my initials instead.

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  7. Jason K says:

    Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t say it is far fetched to think that Ellsbury breaks out to become a Jose Reyes type of fantasy player.

    My projection for Ellsbury goes as follows:

    in 628 AB

    12 HR
    59 RBI
    109 R
    62 SB
    53 BB
    84 K

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  8. Michael says:

    The best comp I can think of for Ellsbury is Billy Butler. They seem to have very similar skills sets.

    Now as a Red Sox fan and an Ellsbury owner, I would be thrilled if he puts up a Butler like OBP but I doubt we’ll see that for a couple years.

    Butler was struggling to get playing time at Ellsbury’s age.

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  9. Michael says:

    ha, I meant brett butler… whoops

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  10. nilodnayr says:

    Jim, Taveras is going to run crazy under Dusty and the leadoff spot is his. We know Dusty doesn’t care if he doesn’t walk or get on base a lot. I would say the 68 he had in less than a full year last year is the minimum. Taveras will fall short of Ellsbury’s HR numbers by like a half dozen. If one kills your fantasy team, then both do. Ellsbury will get about a dozen more RBIs, but even if they end up with the same amount of SBs (which they won’t), are you really going to say 6 hrs and 12 RBIs is worth 100 picks higher?

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  11. Jim says:

    I am going to spell it out for you since you are just picking arbitrary numbers that make the comparison sound good.

    Taveras hit .251 last year. Yes, he hit .320 the year before, but that was fueled by an astoundingly high .371 BABIP. All the projections on Fangraphs peg him at around .265-.270, which seems about right. The GAB argument doesn’t work here, because he is coming from the best hitter’s park in the game.

    Ellsbury hit .280 in his rookie year, and if his minor league stats are indication, that is going nowhere but up. The projections range from .284 to .302.

    Taveras has averaged a little less than 2 homeruns a season since 2005.

    Ellsbury hit 9 last year, and over a full season should be good for at least 10.

    Taveras is most likely to hover around the high 20′s, while Ellsbury will probably hit in 45 or 50 batters.

    Taveras had 64 runs last year, and that from the type of guy who only gives you SB and runs.

    Ellsbury had 98 last year, and should break 100 next year.

    Stolen Bases:
    Fun fact: Taveras averaged 33 stolen bases a year in the 3 years leading up to his 68 SB 2008. Which do you think is the outlier, the 3 seasons when he stole 30 or the one when he stole 70?

    The Red Sox front office has shown that they will let Ells run, and he can run. Anything less than a repeat of last season would be pretty surprising, barring injury.

    If you are in a roto league, Ellsbury over Tavares is absolutely huge. I will take a roto league I was in last year. The #6 team, out of 20, finished with 750 runs and 13 points in the category. If I add the 30 runs, he gains 4.5 points. If I add the 8 homeruns, he gains 3.5 points. If I add the 20 RBI, he gains 1.5 points. If I add in Average, he gains another 2 points, because he was within one average point of 2 other teams. That means he would have had 12.5 more points with Ellsbury. By the way, this team really had Taveras on it.

    This would have bumped him up from 6th place to a point out of 3rd. I’d say that makes Ellsbury worth a hell of a lot more than Taveras!

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  12. Mike Ketchen says:

    I know I am a little late back to the convo but I still find it intresting that Alex stated he would avoid Howard but go for Ichiro.

    First lets just look at last season. You do realize that he gave you 8 more HR then any other player in the league. He also have you 16 more RBI then anyone. Toss in the fact that he scored 100+ Runs and you have a 3 cat beast. Who is doing things no one the MLB not just his position is doing. Now Ichiro finsihed in the top 10 in all of MLB in one cat. And didnt lead all OF’s in a single one. Sure he hit for a good avg and stole some bags and scored some R. But he is a 3 Cat producer that gives you things collective pieces give you. Not one hitter in all of Baseball gives you what Howard does. And also how come avg counts so much and the fact that Ellsbury had more RBI, SB, HR does not count for anything? Sure the margins were not essentially huge but in a ROTO league each gain gives value.

    *also Razzball was not a projection number I was giving you. That was end of 08 dollar values.

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    • Alex Roberts says:


      I agree with you on two of your points. One – Howard is awesome and is a 3 category beast. Two – Howard is much more valuable than Ichiro heads up.

      However, yes, I would avoid Howard in the top 10 picks. And I find Ichiro to be slightly undervalued if he falls to the mid-3rd round.

      We are not too far off – you like Howard more and I am fearful of very low batting avgs.

      If I did draft Howard in round 1 with the last pick, reluctantly, I would try and target Ichiro at the end of round 3 when the snake comes back to me though.

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  13. Scott says:

    I am one who wouldn’t touch howard in the top 10. But I wouldn’t touch ichiro in the 3rd round either. I really dislike the idea of going with 3cat players in the top 5 or so rounds. I’d rather get someone like matt kemp or curtis granderson, someone who will contribute in 4-5 categories very easily than take someone like ichiro in round 3. The problem with ichiro is that he really is only a top player in terms of batting average. His 35 steals aren’t bad, but they aren’t particularly noteworthy either. Problem is because his 35steals aren’t extraordinary, and his hrs/rbi’s are worse than ordinary you’re really getting a guy based solely on average. I realize its personal preference but round 3 is too early for me to pick a guy based primarily on average. I’m also partially biased tho because I play in leagues with OPS, where ichiro in the 3rd round pretty much kills your team early in that category.

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  14. Alireza says:

    I think Peter is probably swallowing his words about Ichiro right now.

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