Jacoby Ellsbury had a breakout 2011 season that I am sure no one saw coming heading into fantasy drafts last March. After playing in only 18 games in 2010, where he hit just .192-.241-.244 with 5 RBI, 10 runs and 7 stolen bases in 78 at bats, Ellsbury had an MVP-like season in 2011. He showed us power that he has never shown before, as he triple slashed .321-.376-.552 with 32 HRs, 105 RBI, 119 runs and 39 stolen bases in 660 at bats. He would have received my vote for AL MVP last year.
I ranked him as my #8 fantasy outfielder in my Early Top 50 Outfielder Rankings, and I think he can have a good year in 2012, but there is no way I expect him to repeat his 2011 performance in 2012.
My reasons after the jump:
Heading into the 2011 season, Ellsbury had hit a total of 20 home runs in a little over 2 full seasons in the majors. Then somehow he had a Brady Anderson-like season, hitting 32 home runs and a total of 83 extra base hits. His 83 extra base hits in 2011 equaled his total for the entire 2008 and 2009 seasons combined.
Ellsbury had a career high in home runs with 32, a .230 ISO and .552 SLG% last season, and when compared to previous years, his 2011 season looks like a career year and an aberration. Let's take a look at his major league ISO, SLG and HR/FB rates for his career:
2007: .155/.509/10.3% in 116 at bats
2008: .114/.394/7.0% in 554 at bats
2009: .114/.415/4.6% in 624 at bats
2010: .051/.244/0.0% in 78 at bats
2011: .230/.552/16.7% in 660 at bats
Add in the fact that his minor league ISO/SLG percentages were more in line with his 2008 and 2009 power stats, and you have to agree that Ellsbury had a career year in 2011. The trend in his power stats tell me that 2011 was a career year for him and he will have trouble repeating in 2012.
Looking at his fly ball rates, we see that he is not a fly ball hitter, as his 34.1% fly ball rate would indicate. Actually, Ellsbury has seen a increase in his fly ball rates since his rookie year, but the power production is not sustainable.
Ellsbury had his breakout last year despite a drop in his plate discipline. Let's take a look at the following plate discipline stats, courtesy of FanGraphs. In 2011,
- He swung at more pitches in the zone - 63% in 2011 vs 58% in 2009
- His outside the zone swing percentage of 28% was the highest of his career, and an increase from the 24% mark in 2009
- He made less contact on balls inside the zone, as his zone contact rates dropped from 95% in 2009 to 92% in 2011
- His overall contact rates dropped from 88% in 2009 to 86% in 2011