We'll continue our look at Oregon State baseball alumni by shifting from St. Louis' Brian Barden (who just hit his first MLB home run, if you missed it) to Jacoby Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox. Jacoby has just started his second full season in the majors, having played in 33 games in 2007, and 45 games in 2008.
A native of Madras, Oregon, Ellsbury had a stellar three-year career with the Beavers. He played in 160 games, batting .365 with 37 doubles, eight triples, 16 home runs and 60 stolen bases. Ellsbury was named an All-American in 2005 and earned All-Pac-10 first-team honors in 2004 and 2005.
In eight games so far this season for the Red Sox, Jacoby is 6-for-31, adding up to a .194 average. He's reached base nine times and has four stolen bases. Ellsbury set a Red Sox record last year with 50 stolen bases on the season-- with him easing into an everyday role in center field, his at-bats will go up, as should his stolen bases. Look for him to top his own record this season.
"Jacoby has been easing into the full-time center field role pretty well" said Allen Chase of the SBN Red Sox Blog, Over the Monster. "He's probably feeling good about the job being his, full-time, without any questions or people who might really push him for playing time, like Coco Crisp."
Crisp, who the Red Sox originally acquired to replace Johnny Damon once he went to the Yankees, was traded to the Kansas City Royals in November of 2008 for pitcher Ramon Ramirez. Coco is currently hitting .214 in Kansas City.
If I'm Jacoby, I'm breathing a little easier without Coco breathing down my neck. The trade meant that the Red Sox are committed to Ellsbury as their center fielder, and hope to have him hit leadoff.
"As Oregon State fans, you guys probably already know how well he tracks flyballs in the outfield and it's been more of the same this year," continued Chase. "I would imagine that with Jason Bay to his right rather than Manny has made it a little easier for him in terms of ground he has to cover, though we all know he could cover some ground for Bay if it was needed."
We mentioned earlier that Jacoby is just 6-of-31 in his first eight games. He hit .280 last year in his first full MLB season, so it's probably safe to say that he'll break out of his slump and turn in a comparable or even better season in 2009.
More from Chase:
His hitting has been the question mark. One of the things that may be emphasized a lot more on the Major League level (and especially in a stat-friendly organization like ours) is patience at the plate, and that has been a work in progress thusfar. He's been more than satisfactory when he does get on base, but for a leadoff hitter we'd probably like to see him get on a little more consistently. His speed is an absolute joy to witness on stolen bases, trips from 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home on singles, etc. On the whole, he's got some work to do offensively, but it's early in the season and you kind of expect guys to press until they have a nice 3-4 day at the plate and start to feel a little more confidence.
It's great to see Jacoby fitting into an everyday role in the major leagues after watching him split time with Coco the past year. I could imagine taking playing time away from a guy like Coco wasn't the most enjoyable for Ellsbury, but now that Crisp is gone, I'm sure it was worth the wait.
Thank you Allen, and let's hope for the best from Jacoby and the Red Sox this season!
Read more about Jacoby and the Boston Red Sox at Over the Monster.