Boston’s Deja Vu

Every time I watch a Red Sox game and see “Big Papi” David Ortiz come to the plate and hit a monster home run I can’t help but think back a decade ago to another beloved left-handed, Babe Ruth-like slugger named Mo Vaughn. Both guys took their time to become stars, Mo in 1995 at the age of 27 hit 39 home runs and drove in 126 R.B.I, and Ortiz, who at 27 years of age had his first big year when he hit 31 home runs and drove in 101 R.B.I. The similarities don’t end there, either.

In twelve seasons, Mo Vaugh hit 30+ home runs and 100+ R.B.I 6 times. Ortiz, has done it just 5 times, but 2008 will be his 12th season in the bigs. Got any projections on what he will do this season? I think I do. Also, despite both players being more Cecil Fielder and less Wade Boggs, if you know what I mean, both have a pretty high career batting average and not surprisingly, it’s just 4 points away from each other, with Mo having the edge at .293 lifetime. You want more? Both were voted into the all-star game 4 times a piece.

It seems that when the Boston Red Sox lost Mo Vaughn in 1999, they wished upon a star for a slugger who looked, hit, and to a degree, was exactly like the “Hit Dog” and they were given a journeyman by the name of David Ortiz. I am sure no one expected that “bum” from Minnesota to someday lead them to their first World Series in more than half a century but I think it has worked out quite well, if you ask the Red Sox Nation.

The Prospect Corner – Jacoby Ellsbury

This will be short and sweet because I think most people have been able to see the potential in Jacoby Ellsbury, but I wanted to make a few comments and give you a few comparable players. In some ways Ellsbury came as a surprise, bursting onto the scene just as the Red Sox were making their way towards another World Series title, but if you take a look at his minor league numbers his success is almost expected. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure if he would come out of the gates putting up the solid numbers or just getting by, but sometimes a prospects initial response to being called up is hard to predict. He probably won’t sustain the batting average he had in ’07, but I think he’ll be very productive in the Red Sox line-up and Red Sox will soon forget Johnny Damon, if they haven’t already.

I really like several things about Ellsbury, including his speed of course, but I also really like his plate discipline. It’s pretty hard to find a hitter that will consistently maintain a BB/K rate of close to 1.0, and that along with his ability to make contact, will keep his on-base percentage up and make him a very valuable asset as the Red Sox try for a repeat. Leo Epstein and company have done a great job of drafting good young contact hitters that add depth and compliment their more established players.

Some of Ellsbury’s comparable came as a bit of a surprise for me, but I think Red Sox fans will be happy about them.

Reyes obviously went through the minors at a younger age, but with an adjustment for that age difference I think their numbers come out to be very similar. The only big differences I see are that Reyes showed a little more power, while Ellsbury showed better plate discipline.

Gonzalez (who is one of the most overlooked hitters in the National League) had a power surge at the age of 23 so he doesn’t provide quite the same comparison as Reyes, but the BB/K ratios, OBP and SLG numbers are all fairly close and it gives you a sense of the different directions Ellsbury’s career could go. Given the nature of the American League and where Ellsbury fits in with the Red Sox line-up, I think he’ll make a great top-of-the-order hitter, with an OBP and SLG close to what we see out of Reyes, and about 40-50 stolen bases in 2008. At 6’1” and 185 lbs, there’s always a chance that Ellsbury could hit for more power than Reyes, and I think he will, but it won’t be the type of numbers that Gonzalez is capable of putting up. So, here are my numbers for Ellsbury for 2008:

AVG OBP SLG OPS HR SB

.290 .360 .445 .805 15 45

Even though he won’t stay on the pace he set for himself in 2007, I think 2008 will still be a very good year for Ellsbury. I wouldn’t advise buying any of his cards for investment purposes, but if you want a few for a personal collection then just wait until some of the hype dies down and you should be able to pick up a few at a decent price.

The Blacklist – Mo Vaughn

Well, it is all said and done. The Mitchell Report kept its promise of naming names and the biggest surprise to come out, at least to me, was fan-favorite and community hero, Mo Vaughn. Mo, a teammate of Jose Canseco in the mid-90’s had a great run of 6 seasons where he could do no wrong, statistically. He was ‘Big Papi’ before David Ortiz took it and ran with it.

What is most revealing about Mo Vaughn is that he didn’t have his first great season until 1995, when he hit 39 home runs, 126 RBI, .300 batting average and took the MVP trophy away from a more deserving Albert Belle (50, 126, .317). Why is it revealing? That year is when the Red Sox traded a bunch of small-time players to Texas for one big one in Jose Canseco.

According to Wikipedia, Vaughn was not as great a human being as I once thought. He had an incident where he punched a man in the mouth at a night club and another where he crashed his truck while driving home from a strip club. Now, years after his last game in 2003 his name has appeared on the infamous Mitchell Report, which is an automatic ticket into the Wax Heaven Blacklist.