The popularity of fantasy baseball is growing every year. Whether you are a fantasy baseball veteran in multiple leagues each season, someone who plays casually or completely new to the game, there is a lot to know before creating your fantasy squad.
The New York Yankees often boast plenty of fantasy options, and this year is no different after some huge additions this winter. You can look at a player’s value on the field and how they help the Yankees a certain way, but should take a different approach when analyzing their fantasy value.
Fantasy players should take into account the size of their league, position eligibility, league scoring settings, position scarcity, injury history, playing time, ballpark and many other factors when determining whether a player is a prudent pick and when (or how much to spend) to draft them. As always, keep in mind who you are drafting with. If you are in a league with a ton of Yankee fans, you’re probably going to have to overpay for Yankee players.
When taking a look at the top Yankees, there are a few stark differences in fantasy values with some. A few years ago, guys like C.C. Sabathia and Carlos Beltran were some of the first few players taken in drafts. Now the two veterans can be had for cheaper, but can still provide plenty of value. Some players are more valuable than they ever have been thanks to new roles on the team, and some are making their debuts on the fantasy scene. Over the course of Spring Training we’ll take a look at the top 10 most valuable Yankees in fantasy baseball. Counting down from 10 to 1, we’ll take an in-depth look at each player, what they can provide this year and when you should add them to your team. We continue our list with the fourth most valuable Yankee in fantasy baseball:
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF (Auction Value – $30)
The Yankees lost their best offensive threat in Robinson Cano this off-season, but along with the big additions of Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, the team added one of the other biggest free agents of this past winter in Jacoby Ellsbury.
A top fantasy outfielder since his breakout year in 2008 (minus one injury-filled season in 2010 and another hampered by issues in 2012), Ellsbury brings to the Bronx his amazing base-stealing ability and high average. He led the league in steals last season with 52 (caught just four times) and has 241 steals in his seven-year career.
While the steals are a given for fantasy owners, that’s not all Ellsbury provides. He has a career .297 average and .350 OBP, both ideal for a lead-off hitter, and should also provide a ton of runs scored from the top of a revamped Yankee lineup. One interesting factor could be Ellsbury’s power. He has hit double-digit home runs in just one season, but that year (2011) he actually hit 32. Hitting in Yankee Stadium, a ballpark primed for left-handed power, we could see more home runs from Ellsbury once again.
A consensus top-10 fantasy outfielder, the one major risk fantasy owners take by drafting the 30-year-old outfielder is the high chance for injuries. Ellsbury managed to play just 134 games last season and just 74 in 2012. He stayed healthy in 2011 but had his shortest year in 2010, playing in only 18 games (missing a total of 256 games due to injuries since 2010).
But the saving grace is that there really isn’t one nagging injury that critics can point to. Two of his biggest injuries (ribs and foot) were caused by major collisions in the outfield. The other, a partially dislocated shoulder that caused him to miss three months when he slid into a fielder’s knee in 2012, could also be chalked up to an accident, but was still serious enough to warrant future concern.
Now in spring training, everyone has been up in arms over a calf issue, but it isn’t expected to be serious and he should be ready for the season.
The bottom line is that while injuries should be considered during your fantasy draft, they shouldn’t be a deciding factor. All players are susceptible to injury, and few players provide the upside of Ellsbury. Forget about the risk and look at the benefits the outfielder provides. Look to spend close to top dollar in auction leagues ($30) and don’t expect to be able to draft him in 10-team snake drafts past the second round.