Thanks for reading our faces in new places series. Leading into the season we’ll be breaking down all of Major League Baseball’s most significant free agent signings and trade results in an effort to explain the impact of new team context on a player’s fantasy production.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees
One of the first big names to make a splash in this year’s free agent period, seven year Red Sox OF Jacoby Ellsbury inked a $153 million contract with the Boston faithful’s biggest rival. He’s one of several big names to arrive in New York this season. You’ll see that we’ve already touched on Carlos Beltran and Masahiro Tanaka, while the signings of Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson can’t be ignored either. The remade Yankees roster has a chance to make some noise in the AL East this year, and Ellsbury will be called upon to be the catalyst at the top of their lineup.
To put the contract in perspective, the $21,142,857 he’ll earn this year in New York tops the $20,802,000 he has earned through his entire seven year career.
2013 Results: Jacoby Ellsbury
Ellsbury capped off his Red Sox career with another strong offensive season… outside of his ridiculous 32 home run explosion in 2011, it came in as pretty much par for the course. Ellsbury slashed .298/.355/.426, with nine home runs, 92 runs and 53 RBIs. He totaled 48 extra base hits, appearing in 134 games for Boston. Most importantly though, he led the league in stolen bases for the third time in his career with 52 steals on just 56 attempts.
He’ll be asked to hit leadoff in front of Derek Jeter, and has been an effective kick starter in that spot throughout his career, including 2013. He took every at bat as the #1 hitter on the lineup card, and hit .320 in innings where he was the first batter to the plate.
Again, everything was more or less status quo for Ellsbury in 2013. He did hit for a significantly higher BABIP (.341) and his isolated power was higher than all but two of his previous seasons – so, logic dictates that his average could come down a bit. That said, he has hit .298 or better in four of his pro seasons so it isn’t as if he played well above his head in 2013.
2014 Outlook: Jacoby Ellsbury
None of the veteran Outfielder’s other peripherals were off the charts either – he hit for a 21.0% line drive rate which is right around his career norm, and his 6.6% HR/FB ratio coupled with a 4.9% in field hit percentage. Those aren’t ‘ceiling’ numbers so there should be room for growth this year.
He leaves the Red Sox, who scored the most runs in the Majors by a wide margin (853, 57 better than the next best) and joins a Yankees team that scored 203 fewer runs last year. Of course, they’ve significantly overhauled their offense and should be in a strong position to top that number (despite the loss of Robinson Cano) – especially if Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter can return as productive elements. Still, the change in team context on its face isn’t great news for his runs scored/RBI stats.
He does get a stadium upgrade, however. Through his career, Ellsbury has slashed a fairly average .285/.352/.431 in New York, but Yankee Stadium ranked inside the top 10 in both runs scored and HRs in terms of overall park factors last season, while Fenway Park was bottom ten in both categories. Moreover – as we know – it’s nice to be a lefty in New York. Yankee Stadium ranked as the 3rd easiest ballpark to homer in from the left side in 2013. The folks at Beyond the Box Score share this assumption and a graphic overlay of Yankee Stadium inside Fenway Park. We have to figure he’ll have a few more long balls this year.
So. Expect Ellsbury to stay consistent, coming down a bit in steals (he’ll still run in NY, but eclipsing 50 again is no minor feat), hitting somewhere in the .300 range, and scoring 80ish runs. Those are some excellent floor numbers, and with a hopeful increase to the 15 HR range, we should see the RBI totals rise as well.