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Jacoby Ellsbury: A cautionary tale about midseason trading

By Al Melchior | Data Analyst

Jacoby Ellsbury is among the 10 most traded players in CBSSports.com leagues, and on Wednesday's Trading Places segment on Fantasy Baseball Today, Scott White, Adam Aizer and I discused whether his value has decreased since the beginning of the season.

Scott and I have both dropped Ellsbury a few spots in our outfielder rankings, but we still have him ranked in the top 10. There are legitimate reasons to downgrade him -- namely that his strikeout per at-bat rate has risen from 16 percent a year ago to 21 percent this season and he is a little behind last season's modest home run pace.

While the latter is a concern that would be wiped away with a pair of homers in quick succession, the former concern looks more serious, yet it's really not at this stage of the season. In Ellsbury's 2011 career year, he finished with a .321 batting average, a 15 percent strikeout rate and 32 home runs. After his first 44 games that season, Ellsbury was hitting .297 with a 20 percent strikeout rate and four home runs.

Now that he is 55 games into this season, Ellsbury is behind that 2011 pace even later into the schedule, but not that much later. And few owners expect Ellsbury to return to his '11 level. It wouldn't take much at all for him to get back to his '13 level, however, and he finished as the seventh-ranked outfielder in standard Head-to-Head and Rotisserie formats in that campaign.

Owners who would have traded Ellsbury in late May or early June of 2011 would have missed the best of his production, and the same thing could happen this season, though probably not to anywhere near the same extreme. The same logic may not apply to someone like Justin Verlander, who is far off the expected pace of an early-round pick, but for highly-traded players like Ellsbury and David Price who are displaying a skill set similar to that of prior seasons, it's best to hold rather than trade them.

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