Ellsbury gets a different view of the greatest rivalry in baseball this season.
As 2013 wound to an end for the Yankees, it became clear the team was looking to go in a different direction in center field.
Since 2010, Curtis Granderson had manned the position, and while productive (84 home runs and 225 RBI from 2011-2012), he struck out a lot (averaged 139 strikeouts per season with the Yankees) and was limited in the field (ranked 44th in range factor of those that played center field in 2012, his most recent full season). With runners in scoring position (RISP), he batted just .218 over his four seasons with the Bombers.
Enter Jacoby Ellsbury.
On December 3, the Yankees and the former Boston Red Sox center fielder agreed to a seven-year, $153 million deal.
Ellsbury seems to be everything Granderson is not. He has never struck out 100 or more times in a season, and whereas Granderson's game is based on power, Ellsbury's seems to be built on speed (he's led the league in stolen bases three times, including 2013).
His career batting average is .297, and in the field, he ranked fifth last season in MLB for range factor among those that played at least 100 games in center field.
The one drawback to Ellsbury is his inability to play a full season. Because of injuries, he's only managed to play in more than 150 games just twice in a seven-year career.
Why would the Yankees spend so much money and time on a player that can't seem to stay off the disabled list? As Fangraphs notes, none of Ellsbury's injuries are of the "chronic" nature. They all seem to have been the result of circumstance and nothing more.
Clearly, the Yankees are banking on this real-life version of Eugene from Hey Arnold! not suffering another fluke setback.
If he can avoid disaster, Ellsbury could prove to be a diamond in the rough for the Yankees. Here is what he accomplished in those two seasons that he played at least 150 games:
Statistics courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
Because of his productivity at the plate and speed on the basepaths, manager Joe Girardi has the flexibility of using Ellsbury either at the top of the lineup or in the heart of the order without repercussions.
With the qualifier that the center fielder will avoid injury this season, look for him to play in 150 games, hit 12-15 home runs, score 110 runs, drive in 90 RBI and steal 65 bases while hitting .315.
Ellsbury is going to prove himself to be a vital component of the New York Yankees for years to come.