New York Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury has not provided the play many New York fans expected the former Boston Red Sox would when he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2014 season. Ellsbury has been relatively healthy during his tenure with New York but the electric play many Yankees fans expected from him has been hard to find. It was expected he would pair with speedy teammate Brett Gardner to produce copious amounts of stolen bases but the speed has not been around since his first season where he stole 39 bases. Age has certainly played a factor in Ellsbury’s performance, he was an above average hitter in his Boston days but while in New York he has only batted for an average of .263 in four seasons. The enormous contract the Yankees handed to Ellsbury still has three more years on it with an option for an eighth year, if his play does not improve he may go down as another reach player the Yankees bet too much on.
Past injuries have likely taken their toll on the outfielder and it is becoming increasingly apparent that those injuries, while healed, still affect his play. Ellsbury’s injury report comes out to four hairline fractures which he repeatedly injured in 2010, a partial dislocation of the shoulder that kept him out nearly 90 games in 2012, a compression fracture in his foot in 2013, a knee sprain that sidelined him for nearly two months in 2015, and most recently a concussion this year. All of these injuries have the chance to flair up again with exception to the ribs, that is not to say they will but rather to say that even though the body parts are healed they can still hinder his progress as a player. What is unfortunate about Ellsbury’s situation is that all of these injuries except the ribs occurred after his stellar 2011 season where he finished second in MVP voting while winning his only silver slugger and golden glove awards. One can only infer what Ellsbury would have accomplished had he been more healthy but since those injuries his batting average, on base percentage, and stolen bases have all fell below what he averaged.
To begin the 2014 season Ellsbury was starting in the outfield and his batting average was over .300 until April 27. Since that contest his batting average has dropped .039 points and he has only recorded five stolen bases since April 21. Moreover, after he went down with his concussion injury he quickly lost his job to fellow outfielder Aaron Hicks who stepped up to the opportunity and rightfully won the job. Coincidentally enough, Hicks went on the disabled list just as Ellsbury was coming off so he lucked out and retained his job for time being. Since his return from the DL Ellsbury has gone 10-48 in his plate appearances, that converts to a disappointing .208 average. On top of losing another .019 on his average since his return he also has not had one multi-hit game in his 13 games. One can only assume that when Aaron Hicks fully recovers from his oblique sprain which will sideline him until at least the end of July that he will retain his job and Ellsbury’s role becomes questionable.
What has become of Jacoby Ellsbury has certainly been disheartening for Yankees fans, he is likely to go down as another bust the Yankees reached on. Given the size of his contract which again still has three years on it after this season the Yankees may see Ellsbury as an odd man out and try to trade him. Most teams will not want to eat the massive contract of an aging and mostly unproductive player so the Yankees may need to take the hit for most of his contract if they look into trading him. Being that first base and the rotation need some help it would not be out of this world to think the Yankees might pair Ellsbury with a few prospects to improve one of those positions. With Aaron Hicks coming back in two weeks at the most it will be interesting to see what kind of role Ellsbury will play for this team that is fighting for a shot at the MLB postseason.
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