I can’t believe I’m saying this in the year 2017, but Jacoby Ellsbury could be a key figure in the Yankees’ postseason run. The team has already clinched a playoff spot, and while they are technically still in the division race, it looks like the Yankees will face the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Game. However things ultimately shake out, it looks like Ellsbury will play an important role in the team’s success going forward.
We all know that Jacoby Ellsbury has been a huge disappointment for the Yankees. After an above-average first year in the Bronx, he followed it up with two below-average showings, making 2017 an important year for the success of his contract. Things started miserably for him after he suffered a concussion in May and missed significant time.
Looking at his season overall, he’s hitting .269/.355/.414, which equates to a decidedly league-average 101 wRC+ (an improvement). His seven home runs and 21 stolen bases are basically what you can expect from him at this point in his career. As average as those season stats look, it’s what he’s done recently that should give you hope.
By hitting .311/.405/.508 since the calendar flipped to August, Ellsbury has been one of the team’s best hitters. In that time, he has also hit three of his seven dingers and stole seven of his 21 bases. Most importantly, he has collected 13 walks in 84 plate appearances in September. He’s certainly no Aaron Judge, but he’s actually been better than Chase Headley, another disappointing Yankee who people are praising for his recent hitting prowess. If he’s finally healthy, it couldn’t have come at a better time.
There’s no doubt that Jacoby Ellsbury’s contract has been a massive disaster. He’s struggled to consistently make contact, his power has disappeared, and he’s basically halved his stolen base output, all while dealing with various injuries over these four seasons. Next year he will be 34 years old and still be owed over $63 million for the next three seasons, but we can worry about that in the offseason. Right now, he’s a key piece of this playoff machine.
Whether in the Wild Card Game or the American League Division Series, the Yankees need Jacoby Ellsbury to be the serious playoff threat he used to be in all facets of his game. He’s probably not going to be hitting many home runs, but he needs to be stealing bases and getting on base. He’s doing both particularly well right now, and all the Yankees need him to do is continue doing what he’s been doing once we reach October.
Through much of his career, Ellsbury has found success by being the pesky hitter who can get on base and cause problems for the opposition on the base paths. We haven’t seen much of that guy since he put on the pinstripes, but when he’s at his best, and he’s healthy, Ellsbury has been able to cause chaos in short bursts.
It’s hard to ask a 34-year-old injury prone outfielder to be an X-factor on the bases—that should be the job of someone younger—but he’s the team’s best weapon, when he can get it done. The injury to Aaron Hicks has guaranteed that Ellsbury is a starter in the playoffs, so it’s time for him to step up, if only just for the next few weeks. Maybe he can nab another catcher’s interference at a key moment.