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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Analyzing the value of Jacoby Ellsbury

The All-Star break is ending, and you might be getting your first-round draft pick back.

Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who hasn't played since April 13 because of a shoulder injury, is expected to be activated from the disabled list Friday.

Your first reaction might be to start Ellsbury immediately. Depending on your roster, that could be the right move.

My first reaction, especially in weekly leagues in which you have to commit to starting a player for seven straight days -- or in the case of the All-Star break in many leagues, 10, since this week and next week count as one game -- is to sit Ellsbury and give him time to prove to us that he will be healthy enough to stay in the lineup.

Last season, Ellsbury was phenomenal, batting .321 with 32 homers, 105 RBI, 39 steals, 119 runs and a .928 OPS.

In 2010, he was limited to 78 at-bats by injury, and he didn't hit a homer.

In 2009, Ellsbury batted .301 with 70 stolen bases and 94 runs, but he wasn't of much help in the power departments (eight homers and 60 RBI).

Ellsbury is a career .299 hitter, but his 2011 home-run total doesn't mesh with his past performance.

Ellsbury averaged one homer per 20.6 at-bats last season. Prior to 2011, he had 20 homers in 1,398 at-bats -- one per 69.9 at-bats.

Is he a power hitter? I'd say no, but he can still be very productive in every other area, especially steals, runs and batting average.

In two of the leagues in which I participate, I drafted late in the first round of a 12- and 14-team mixed league. I was (un)lucky enough to get Ellsbury in both leagues.

In both leagues, I was fortunate to acquire very good outfielders in Ellsbury's place -- the Cardinals' Allen Craig (waiver wire) in the 12-team league and the White Sox's Alex Rios (draft) in the 14-team league.

In the 14-team league, I also have Josh Hamilton and Jason Heyward in the outfield, which made my decision to bench Ellsbury (I have David Ortiz in the utility spot) pretty easy.

In the 12-team league, I have Hamilton and Desmond Jennings in the outfield. Considering Jennings is batting .231 with five homers, I could have started Ellsbury and not given it much thought, but again, I preferred to wait.

When released its second-half fantasy rankings this week, they ranked Ellsbury 21st in the outfield -- one behind Heyward and 11 ahead of the woefully underrated Rios (.318, 50 runs, 12 homers, 49 RBI and 13 steals).

The ranking on Ellsbury seems about right.

I would view him as a No. 2 outfielder in a 12-team mixed league.

That's quite a few notches below where you and I drafted him, but, considering Ellsbury's totals in 2010 and '12, maybe we should just be happy he is healthy.

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