Jacoby Ellsbury had a huge 33 games in a 2007 call up and even made a great showing in the 2007 playoffs, but has yet to match those numbers since. He has been given many comparisons to other players, including Fred Lynn, Johnny Damon and Ichiro Suzuki. So far though he has fallen short in different ways, like batting eye or power. This leaves him in a dangerous position and looking dangerously more like Juan Pierre.
Name GP AB R HR RBI SB CS K% BB% BABIP HR/FB P/PA Jacoby Ellsbury 69 282 37 3 24 31 6 9.9% 6.6% 0.327 3.6% 3.8 Juan Pierre 67 229 37 0 24 18 6 7.9% 6.9% 0.357 0% 3.5
This season Ellsbury has shown improvement in his contact rate. His career strikeout rate is 12.9 percent, but he has been at or below 10 percent almost all season. Looking at his career he has a 13 percent strikeout rate in the lead off spot in 764 at-bats, but a 10 percent rate in any other spot in the order with 183 at-bats. This is still a small sample size, but may be a sign for the Red Sox to keep him at the bottom of the order.
However, the problem hasn’t been strikeouts so much for Ellsbury, but the lack of walks. He has been extremely consistent with his walk rate, which is at only 6.8 percent in his career. This has always been a problem, and contributed to his OBP dropping to .336 last year. A reduction of his strikeout rate this year has pushed his OBP back up to .354. That isn’t great, but for a bottom of the order guy with speed it doesn’t hurt.
Unfortunately, the power has disappeared this season for Ellsbury as he has seen his HR/FB go from 10.9 percent in 2007 to 7.3 percent in 2008 and now 3.6 percent through 278 at-bats this year. This used to help differentiate him from Pierre. If he can’t reach 10 homers, he starts to look like a one or two category guy and his value drops.
Ellsbury also hasn’t been able to keep his BABIP as high as Ichiro’s. While Ellsbury had a BABIP of .388 in limited time in 2007 year, his career BABIP is just .327. Ichiro’s career BABIP is .358, resulting in better averages and OBPs.
Pierre is a well known entity at this point. He holds value in fantasy leagues for his batting average and steals, but in real baseball his value is limited. Now that teams are catching on, he has come to be a bench outfielder unless injuries strike. With Manny Ramirez out for a drug suspension he has seen plenty of at-bats and produced as we have come to expect.
In every season since 2001 Pierre has stolen 40 bases, scored 87 runs (except last year) and his career batting average is .301. He is as consistent as the come, but so is his walk rate. His career rate is 5.8 percent and this year’s 6.9 percent is his highest since 2003 with the Marlins.
Power is the category where Pierre falls behind Ellsbury. Pierre has never topped three homers in a season, while Ellsbury hit nine in 2008 and has three so far in 2009. Pierre should be able to find full time at-bats as long as Willy Tavaras and Michael Bourn can get starting jobs. Unfortunately, that won’t happen on the Dodgers now that Manny is back, and according to this LA Times report there is no interest in moving Pierre, so he will be dead weight to your team for the remainder of the year.
So being compared to Pierre doesn’t make Ellsbury a bad fantasy option, but it certainly won’t help him with the Red Sox. They are almost the same player, with a slight boost in SLG (about 30 points) for Ellsbury. Pierre’s value will continue to fluctuate with his playing time, and his situation in Los Angeles, where he is behind both Ramirez and Andre Ethier, doesn’t look good for now. Ellsbury has a firm grip on a starting gig, and is on pace for 60 steals this year, and should provide solid fantasy value going forward. If he could ever gain a few points in his walk rate he could head back to the top of the order and be an elite lead off man, but for now he’s relegated to Pierre comparisons.