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December 17, 2013

Hot Stove Scouting Report

Jacoby Ellsbury

by Chris Mellen

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See our introduction to the Hot Stove Scouting Report series here.

Player Name: Jacoby Ellsbury

Date Filed: 12/14/13

Throws

Bats

Primary Pos

Secondary Pos

L

L

CF

N/A

Swing Breakdown

Slightly open stance, with shorter stride during swing; quick, steady hands that consistently remain in hitting position; little wasted movement during load; drives hands to the point of contact while keeping them inside of the ball to prevent over-extension; plus bat-speed; front foot landing varies based on pitch location; will lunge across the plate against pitches middle-away; back shoulder can drop too much and limit backspin created; swing has holes against stuff above the belt; swing path excels against balls from top of thighs and down; when consistent with overall swing timing, ball jumps off bat.

Approach

“Selectively aggressive” at the plate; will attack his pitch at any point in the count; not afraid to take pitches and hit with two strikes; rarely chases early in the count; knows his strike zone; will use the whole field; tends to pull most balls on the ground; serves pitches in air to opposite field as opposed to driving; drives offerings in the air from right field to center field; handles fastballs from both lefties and righties well; prone to chasing breaking balls off the plate and in the dirt when behind in the count, especially against lefties.

Makeup

Proven player in big market and on the largest stage; even-keeled approach to the game; intense competitor, with a high level of confidence; not overly emotional on the outside; rarely displays negative body language; strong work ethic; keeps himself in excellent shape and looks after body; popular teammate; driven to succeed; has gotten more mentally tough from early career.

Breakdown of Tools

Hit Tool

Grade

High 5

Capable of squaring up high velocity fastballs and handling breaking balls; will swing and miss at elevated fastballs; has trouble getting hands above the baseball against offerings above the belt; solid bat control; can alter swing path and spoil pitches; has learned to cover hole on inner third; murders pitches at the thighs; covers the plate with swing, but will lunge to do so; hit tool plays up due to speed; should maintain averages in the high .280s to .290s; lack of consistency driving balls into play limits output of .300+ averages.

Power

Grade

5

Possesses above-average raw, but inconsistent tapping into it during long stretches of game action; mainly pull-side power; can put a charge into both fastballs and secondary offerings in the air from center to right-field line; excellent at going down and lifting balls in lower tier to even below the zone; struggles to lift elevated fastballs due to uppercut in swing; at times carry suffers due to topspin created.

Speed

Grade

8

Impacts the game with his speed; puts pressure on defenders to field every ball cleanly; capable of routinely taking an extra base on balls hit into gaps and legging out hits; aggressive on the base paths; a threat to run every time he reaches base; excellent basestealing instincts; has perfected reads and jumps off of opposing pitchers; 50-plus basestealer a year.

Defense

Grade

Description

6

Well above-average range into both gaps; closes well; can go get the ball; crisp with routes and limiting drifting upon approach to spot of the ball; plays fearless in center; average with reads off the bat; will freeze on balls in front of him, especially after a big swing; has improved going back on fly balls over his head from early career; elite speed makes up for mistakes; surehanded defender.

Arm

Grade

High 3

Arm is a non-factor and weakness in the player’s game; lacks strength; throws typically die on approach to the infield; does release ball quickly to enable accuracy; routinely is challenged by baserunners; deficiency especially shows in sacrifice fly situations and balls hit into gaps.

Batting Trends

Date Range: 2013 Season

Splits

vs. LHP

vs. RHP

Batted Ball Percentage

Batted Ball Percentage

GB

LD

FB

GB

LD

FB

9.96%

4.02%

3.42%

10.31%

4.98%

4.26%

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

Chase Percentage (Out of Strike Zone Swings)

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

27.69%

37.06%

47.06%

25.75%

31.16%

51.43%

Swing/Miss Percentage

Swing/Miss Percentage

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

FB (4/2/SNK)

CB/SL

CH/SPLT

3.98%

11.54%

10.00%

4.57%

9.63%

8.30%

Grades and Projections

Role

Present

Future

6; first-division player

High 5; solid-average regular

Years expected to perform at current level: 4

Strengths

Sets the tone at the top of a lineup; comfortable hitting in the leadoff spot; speed, speed, and more speed; impacts game on the bases; changes sequences for hitters behind him when he reaches base; brings consistency and playmaking ability to center field; strong up-the-middle player; sees ball from right-handed pitching exceptionally well; hangs in well against left-handed pitching; will make pitchers pay for their mistakes; not a stranger to the spotlight or pressures of a big market; takes care of his body.

Weaknesses

Decline of speed into mid-30s will be a large hit to overall game; runs into stretches of inconsistently driving the ball; more of a defensive hitter against left-handed pitching; tends to hit his way onto base; can be pitched to in clear spots; runners take advantage of the arm; balls occasionally drop in front of him in center; more open to impact injuries due to the nature of his game.

Means of Exploitation

Elevated fastballs middle-away from both righties and lefties give the hitter trouble; will chase in that area when down in the count; especially effective when preceded by breaking balls appearing to be in middle of the plate and then breaking in; sequencing causes batter to open slightly early and lose swing coverage; can also exploit with stuff on the outer third of the plate as tends to put them more weakly into play; first or second pitch secondary offerings will fool at times as hitter gears up for fastballs early; more apt to weakly put them into play in that situation; struggles with sweeping breaking balls from lefties, especially when they are dropped in for a strike.

Conclusion

Ellsbury is a dynamic player, who brings a blend of various elements to the diamond. While a lot of his overall game and impact to the team are dependent on speed, don’t expect a decline to come any time soon. Ellsbury takes very good care of himself, and outside of a major injury to the lower half of his body, I expect the decline to be gradual the last three years of his deal.

He should be able to sustain his status as an above-average regular for the foreseeable future. The batting averages are likely to remain relatively consistent to his current output for a while, and Ellsbury may even become a little bit better of a hitter from now until his mid-30s. The hit tool does have the potential to drop as he loses a step and the bat slows, but the shorter nature of his swing leaves me with the impression he’ll still make enough contact to hit in the .270s towards the end. Expect the power to continue to be streaky, though, as there’s now more incentive to pull the ball in the air and output could spike up into the mid-teens.

Although Ellsbury will still run better than average if he loses a bit of his present speed, his basestealing and defense will take a hit. His ability to stick in center with reduced speed is the most concerning to me since it carries his range and covers for the lack of elite instincts. Ellsbury could be exposed towards the end, and forced to move to left field, where his value would drop considerably.

Chris Mellen is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Chris's other articles. You can contact Chris by clicking here

Related Content:  Scouting,  Jacoby Ellsbury

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