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.