Jacoby Ellsbury is an MVP candidate. I never thought I would end up writing that sentence, not even in my wildest dreams. Don’t get me wrong, I always expected Ellsbury to be a good player. Up until this season I had envisioned Ellsbury as a young Johnny Damon. Ellsbury and Damon are very similar, both in stature and style of play. They are both left handed hitters with opposite field power. They steal bases. They play Gold Glove caliber defense and crash into the Fenway fences with reckless abandon. Ellsbury weighs in at 6’1″ 185 pounds, while Damon is 6’2″ 205 which is slightly heavier than his playing weight in previous years. Statistically they are also very similar. Here are some key averages from their first five years in the MLB:
Damon: Batting Average: .282, Home Runs Per Year: 9.8 RBIs Per Year: 52, Steals Per year:22
Ellsbury: Batting Average: .297, Home Runs Per Year: 8.0, RBIs Per Year: 41, Steals Per Year: 33.4
Through five years Ellsbury already hits for a higher average than Damon. He is slightly behind Damon in Home Runs, and RBIs however his power numbers are low due to an injury marred 2010 season. He steals more bases than Damon, and is slightly better defensively. As an overall player, I would take Ellsbury over young Damon, and heres why:
1) Ellsbury’s stats are deceiving. During 2010 when he missed over 100 games and hit under .200 his career numbers took a serious dip. His 2010 season was the equivalent to a B student getting a 20 on a term exam.
2) Ellsbury is just coming into his own. Ellsbury has hit 20 homers so far this year, and is on pace for thirty by the end of the year. Damon has never hit thirty home runs, and it took him nine years to break 20. With the exception of 2010 Ellsbury has shown consistent statistical improvement every year.
3) Damon didn’t improve much after those five years. Since then, his average only increased by 0.05. He hit four more homers, and drove in 10 more runs per year. He also stole 1 more base per year. However his greatest strength is the chink in Ellsbury’s armor: consistency.
4) Ellsbury is more of a threat. Ellsbury has a higher batting average, on base percentage, steals per year average, and stealing/caught stealing ratio through five years. Ellsbury reaches base more, and is more dangerous when he is on base.
What sets Ellsbury apart from other players is his ability to do every thing well. He won’t ever hit 50 home runs (unless he starts juicing) in one season. He won’t hit .360 anytime soon. He won’t win 10 Gold Gloves either. What makes him special is the he will give you 15-25 home runs, hit 300, steal 30-40 bases, and play sparkling defense out in center field. He is a modern example of the five tool player.
Ellsbury is a gritty competitor, and the face of the Red Sox franchise. He is in the final year of his contract, and the Red Sox should do all they can to re-sign him. His asking price will be high, but the Red Sox need to keep him at all costs. Give him whatever he wants. Give him some of the money they wasted on JD Drew since his contract ends after this year. Why? Because he is the face of the franchise, and a prime target for the Yankees this offseason. Besides, by the time Ellsbury’s next contract ends the argument won’t be Ellsbury vs Damon anymore. It will be Ellsbury vs Jeter.