The Yankees continued to check off 2016 debuts for their pitching staff with this afternoon's start by CC Sabathia, and as we approach the completion of the first week of games there aren't too many players left who need to get into game action. One notable position player debut that happened over the weekend was that of Jacoby Ellsbury, who got 3 plate appearances in his first ST action on Saturday. Ellsbury's game debut came a few games after the rest of his teammates, and it sounds like the decision to start later was a mutual one between Joe and Ellsbury.
For some, that news may come as a sign that the team has learned from the last few years and doesn't want to over-work one of its most important players. For many, it probably comes as another reason to chalk Ellsbury up as a lost cause and a sunk contract after 2 years of his 7-year deal. However you feel about Ellsbury's prospects in 2016 and however you feel about him in general, the key point to remember heading into this season is that aforementioned importance to the team. Ellsbury at the top is what allows Joe to build the rest of his lineup every day without having to tinker too much and play/bat guys out of position. And when he's healthy and on top of his game, Ellsbury can be a dangerous force at the top of that lineup.
To that point, the other key thing to remember as you prepare your Ellsbury hatred for this season is just how well he was playing before he got hurt last year. That's gotten significantly overshadowed by the post-injury struggles and WC game benching, but it should not be completely discarded. If you don't recall, Ellsbury was batting .324/.412/.372 when he suffered the knee injury last year, and he wasn't that far removed from a slash line in the .340/.420/.400 range. He had stolen 14 bases in 19 attempts and had scored 29 runs in his team's first 40 games. Without looking it up, I want to say he was safely in the top 10 in the AL in average, OBP, steals, and runs at the time and inside the top 5 in some cases. Ellsbury had gone back to being a classic leadoff hitter, getting on base at a high rate and being aggressive on the basepaths when he got there.
He stopped being that player once he got hurt, but that doesn't mean he still can't be that player this season if he is back to full health. He's said he feels better, the team doesn't have any concerns about him physically, and if you watched the game on Saturday you know he looked pretty damn good running the bases on that triple. It's more than fair to say Ellsbury has been a disappointment in his first 2 years in pinstripes. But let's not let the sour end of 2015 completely destroy his chances for 2016. The guy was playing at a high level the last time we saw him healthy. There's reason to expect he can be that same player he was in early 2015.