The Ones that Got Away: Jacoby Ellsbury

By Robbie Knopf

Jacoby Ellsbury would have been the perfect Rays player- when healthy.

Jacoby Ellsbury is a player the Rays drooled over. After all, he does fit a profile they like and a profile they have gone after in the past. Ellsbury has always had blazing speed that suits him extremely well in the outfield and on the basepaths, and he also had a compact stroke that he could use to hit for average. The Devil Rays saw that in Ellsbury and selected him in the 23rd round of the 2002 MLB Draft out of Madras High School in Oregon despite Ellsbury’s strong commitment to Oregon State University. Ellsbury, of course, didn’t sign and went to OSU, and in 2005 he was a first round pick by the Red Sox. Now, he is the enemy.

No one would have guessed back in the day that Ellsbury would have added power, and it’s unfortunate for him that he’s been injured so often (something ironically good for the Rays). Ellsbury fits the Carl Crawford profile for Rays outfielders, and even the B.J. Upton profile when you count his power. Would have been crazy to get Upton and Ellsbury in the same 2002 Draft, but alas. Ellsbury has ended up as the better version (again, when healthy) of current Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings, who the Rays selected in the 10th round of the 2006 draft. Ellsbury has power, speed, but especially pertinent for the Rays is his excellent centerfield defense and constant hustle. You have to wonder if Ellsbury would have ever had a prolific power season like he did in 2011 if he played his home games at the Trop. I’d say yes, but instead of 32 homers, more like 25.

In a way, it’s kind of good that Ellsbury didn’t sign. He would have frustrated the heck out of us like he has done for Red Sox fans. And considering Ellsbury’s injury problems, they could have been magnified if he had been running as much as Joe Maddon would have made him. But all in all, the Rays would have loved to end up with Ellsbury. But he didn’t sign and we ended up where we are.