Who would you rather have in 2014: Jacoby Ellsbury of Matt Kemp?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

I asked this question on Twitter yesterday and there was lots of back and forth with some of my followers, as well as with three other Fake Teams writers. Lots of strong opinions.

Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury are two different hitters at the plate. One hits for power, with a high average, and can steal bases; while the other can hit for a high average and steal ALOT of bases. But they have one thing in common: they are injury prone and pose a dilemma for fantasy owners heading into the 2014 drafts. Kemp is a risk as he has battled injuries in 2013 and has an ankle injury that is reported to be "career threatening". Kemp's 2014 fantasy value depends on how healthy his ankle and shoulder is heading into spring training. Ellsbury is also injury prone and will be leaving the friendly confines of Fenway Park this offseason in search of free agent riches, so his 2014 fantasy value hinges somewhat on where he signs.

Our own Andrew Ball commented on my recent article on Jacoby Ellsbury where I opine that he is not a top 20 outfielder for 2014. In the article, I list my early top 25 outfielders for 2014, with Matt Kemp ranked at #12. Andrew stated that he would have Ellsbury ranked higher and that Kemp is ranked way too high in my rankings.

This led me to this question on Twitter yesterday regarding Jacoby Ellsbury and Matt Kemp:

And there was plenty of discussion. For the most part, the responders, besides Fake Teams writer Brian Creagh and myself, sided with Ellsbury. That response surprised me, honestly, but I can understand the reasoning as Kemp has been injury prone the last two seasons.

Let's take a look at their career stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Jacoby Ellsbury

Year Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2007 23 33 116 20 41 7 1 3 18 9 8 15 .353 .394 .509 .902 131 59
2008 24 145 554 98 155 22 7 9 47 50 41 80 .280 .336 .394 .729 88 218
2009 25 153 624 94 188 27 10 8 60 70 49 74 .301 .355 .415 .770 98 259
2010 26 18 78 10 15 4 0 0 5 7 4 9 .192 .241 .244 .485 30 19
2011 27 158 660 119 212 46 5 32 105 39 52 98 .321 .376 .552 .928 146 364
2012 28 74 303 43 82 18 0 4 26 14 19 43 .271 .313 .370 .682 84 112
2013 29 134 577 92 172 31 8 9 53 52 47 92 .298 .355 .426 .781 114 246
7 Yrs 715 2912 476 865 155 31 65 314 241 220 411 .297 .350 .439 .789 108 1277
162 Game Avg. 162 660 108 196 35 7 15 71 55 50 93 .297 .350 .439 .789 108 289
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2013.

Ellsbury had the one year where he hit 32 home runs, but that looks like a career year for him at this point. He is a hitter that will hit for a high average, score 90+ runs and steal 40-50 bases for his owners year in and year out. In years where he has played at least 134 games, he is averaging 53 stolen bases per season. But, in two of the last four seasons, he has missed 144 and 88 games (2010 and 2012), so the injury tag is firmly attached to his name.

His 162 game average is 15 home runs, 108 runs, 71 RBI and 55 stolen bases with a .297 batting average.

Matt Kemp

Year Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2006 21 52 154 30 39 7 1 7 23 6 0 9 53 .253 .289 .448 .737 85 69
2007 22 98 292 47 100 12 5 10 42 10 5 16 66 .342 .373 .521 .894 127 152
2008 23 155 606 93 176 38 5 18 76 35 11 46 153 .290 .340 .459 .799 110 278
2009 24 159 606 97 180 25 7 26 101 34 8 52 139 .297 .352 .490 .842 125 297
2010 25 162 602 82 150 25 6 28 89 19 15 53 170 .249 .310 .450 .760 106 271
2011 26 161 602 115 195 33 4 39 126 40 11 74 159 .324 .399 .586 .986 172 353
2012 27 106 403 74 122 22 2 23 69 9 4 40 103 .303 .367 .538 .906 147 217
2013 28 73 263 35 71 15 0 6 33 9 0 22 76 .270 .328 .395 .723 105 104
8 Yrs 966 3528 573 1033 177 30 157 559 162 54 312 919 .293 .350 .493 .844 126 1741
162 Game Avg. 162 592 96 173 30 5 26 94 27 9 52 154 .293 .350 .493 .844 126 292
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 10/20/2013.

Kemp is the better power hitter, who can steal 20+ bases and hit for a high batting average, hit for power and drive in runs. He is a five category contributor, while Ellsbury is more of a three category contributor. In years where he has played at least 155 games, Kemp has averaged 28 home runs, 32 stolen bases and has scored 82 or more runs in each of those four seasons.

Kemp's 162 game average is 26 home runs, 96 runs, 94 RBI and 27 stolen bases with a .293 batting average.

Again, both have questions marks heading into the 2014 season, so who would you prefer in fantasy drafts in 2014? For me, I lean toward the hitter who can contribute in more categories, Kemp. If he is healthy in 2014, I see his power returning and 20+ stolen bases from him. His shoulder was never 100% this season, thus the drop in power, but even with all the injuries, he still managed nine stolen bases in nine attempts this season, so 20 is not out of the question for 2014.

Let's hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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