08 March 2010
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With three teammates in the AL's top 20 in this category - Youkilis: .413, 2nd, Drew: .392, 9th, Martinez: .381, 16th and Pedroia, 20th, .371, Ellsbury should continue to develop this aspect of his game, but the Red Sox might want to be careful while tinkering with Ellsbury's approach. Ellsbury knows that his number one job is to get on base, but with a .300 average and a Ichiro-like K-rate (11.9 JE, 11.1 IS) in 2009, his approach may be just fine.
He hasn't earned the respect that Ichiro has, so his first-pitch strike rate is up around 60%, compared to Ichiro's 52% last season, but thanks to the Red Sox philosophy, Ellsbury swings at fewer pitches both inside and outside of the strike zone while posting an equivalent contact rate of 88%. If Jacoby can get his line drive percentage back up over 20% and his flyball rate back down under 30%, pitchers will begin to fear pitching to him.
Ellsbury has already said that he wants double-digit homers this season, but swinging for the fences often leads to an increased flyball rate. While it would be nice to see Ellsbury be a .300, 15 HR player, I think the Red Sox would prefer he focus on reaching base and turning singles into doubles and triples with his speed. That said, if Jacoby wants feature more pop in 2010, my guess is we will see 10-12 ding dongs AND 30-40 doubles... and there's nothing wrong with that.
So, knowing that Ellsbury wants to show off his ever-growing muscles... and knowing that he Sox offense may take a half-a-step backwards this season... I see another career year for Jacoby Ellsbury in 2010.
Bottom Line Projection: 625 AB, 10 HR, 36 2B, 102 R, 62 RBI, .298 BA, .775 OPS, 73 SB
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