As we inch towards the regular season, I thought it would be fun to look at each position in turn, and discuss. Since the top of the batting order seems like as good a place to start as any, Let’s go with centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Boy. A crapshoot right out of the gate. Ellsbury’s 2011 season shocked, well, everyone. Everyone knew he was fast. Everyone knew he had star potential. Nobody expected it to all come pouring out last year. Especially after his disastrous 2010 season. It was one giant leap. So, what happens in 2012? Dunno.
The first question is where to hit him. People suggest that a player with 30 HR and a .928 OPS has no business leading off. He has to be hitting third, at least. Other would point out that a player with 39 SB and a .376 OBP has no business batting anywhere but leadoff. I say leave him where he’s been. He obviously likes hitting leadoff. He doesn’t let it stop him from swinging for the fences when called for. (Are you reading this Ichiro?) The Red Sox led the league in runs scored, even with him batting at the top. So, leave him there. Why not?
The bigger question? What is he going to do from the leadoff spot? Is another 30-30 season in the works? Will he drop back to 10 HR and 70 SB? Is last season a fluke, or logical progression? I think a bit of both.
The one thing Ellsbury has going for him is that he’s still in the Red Sox line-up. A lot of times you see a big drop off after a big year because pitchers start pitching around him. That shouldn’t happen to Ellsbury. With his speed, the last thing you want to do is walk him. He’ll just turn it into a double. And, with the line up he has following him, you don’t want him in scoring position. So, that will help him maintain his numbers. His speed will also help him if teams start to find weaknesses. A scratch infield single here and there will help keep him out of prolonged slumps. Even if he’s jammed, or off balance, he can leg something out. If he’s getting his hits even when pitchers throw to his weaknesses, they’ll be more likely to try something he can hit. So, what will his numbers look like? How about