2013 slash line: .298/.355/.426
Ed. note, before we get started, meet Kevin Brown. No, not the pitcher, the new blogger at WSD. He's p. cool and he wrote this piece.
After an injury plauged 2012 season, Jacoby Ellsbury had a return to form in 2013. Although he still missed time, the speedy center fielder enjoyed a very successful season when he was patrolling the Fenway Park outfield. The speedster led all of Major League Baseball with 52 stolen bases, proving why he is one of the premier baserunners in baseball.
Ellsbury isn't all speed however, he hit a very strong .298 which coupled with his .355 on base percentage resulted in him being one of the elite top of the order bats in baseball. While some were hoping that Ellsbury would return from injury as the power threat he was in 2011, that did not happen. He was unable to top 10 long balls and it appears that 2011 was an aberration in Ellsbury's career.
This years line was more in line with Ellsbury's career and is probably the type of player he is. Still, that is not a bad thing. Ellsbury finished among the top 20 players in all of baseball with a 5.8 fWar, grading out positively in both the offensive and the defensive versions of the stat. All things considered, Ellsbury did everything he could have in his contract year, and there is a case to be made that he is the top outfielder on the market.
Just about every team in the league would love to have Ellsbury, and he is a perfect fit for the Cubs. With just about nothing resembling a competent major league center fielder on the 40 man roster, Ellsbury would fill a huge hole on this cubs team. Ellsbury would also fill a very big need as a top of the lineup speed threat. Unless Starlin Castro suddenly finds his speed (and manages to bring his on base percentage back up above the .300 mark), it doesn't look like there is a player on the roster who would be an optimal major league top of the order hitter, let alone one that could be able to provide the speed and baserunning prowess of Ellsbury.
Even if Castro does have a return to form, it would be far more beneficial to leave him hitting in the 2 or 3 spot than continue testing him in the leadoff role. Should the team manage to meet Ellsbury's hefty contract demands, he would introduce far more lineup flexablity, allowing the team not to be forced into attempting to use low OBP players like Junior Lake at the leadoff or two spot.
While it may be a year away from happening, Ellsbury would certainly slot in nicely on top of a lineup with power mashing prospects Javier Baez and Kris Bryant along with still promising youngsters Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro. With Ellsbury likely to be heading into a 100 million dollar contract, it remains to be seen if Theo and company are willing to hand out that big of a deal on a still rebuilding team, but Ellsbury is the kind of player that will continue to hold value in the long term and still holds a very good chance at being a big part in the next great Cubs team if he is signed.