Former Oregon State star Jacoby Ellsbury, who was the Red Sox first round pick in this year's draft, could be ready for this big leagues in 2006. That's according to Pat Casey, his coach at OSU.
With the Sox in need of a center fielder, Casey thinks the Sox should give Ellsbury a shot in Spring Training.
“If I were the Red Sox, I’d take Jacoby to (major league) training camp in February,” says Casey. “If he’d get 50 at-bats during spring training, they’d find he is a lot closer to being big-league ready than they thought. He’d probably hit .250 and steal some bases and play well defensively and they’d go, ‘Wow.’ ”
Playing in 35 games for the Lowell Spinners this season, the 21-year-old Ellsbury hit .317 with a .418 on-base percentage. He arrived in Lowell after leading OSU to the Pac-10 title and the College World Series. Even though he missed 14 games due to a hamstring injury, he still led the team with 23 stolen bases and was second on the team in hitting and on-base percentage.
But with just one season of pro baseball experience, it's more likely that the Sox have Ellsbury start the 2006 season with either Class A Wilmington or Double-A Portland.
Wherever he's assigned, Ellsbury felt good about his progress in Lowell, and is quite confident in his abilities.
“You always feel like you can play better, but I was pleased with how it went,” says Ellsbury. “I was pretty solid defensively. There wasn’t much of a transition to make from the college game.”
Ellsbury's speed and hitting prowess have led to comparison with Johnny Damon. Perhaps the Sox had this in mind when they refused to make a contract offer of more than four years to their former center fielder.
Hopefully it won't be long before Ellsbury is able to show his readiness in filling Damon's rather sizable footprints in Boston. The Sox may have a more immediate solution in mind, but Ellsbury could be the long term answer that Sox fans are waiting for.