The Comp: Jacoby Ellsbury Vs. Trevor Crowe

As one of our weekly features, today we roll out our first version of what we like to call "The Comp," which pits two prospects against one another, breaks down their strengths and weaknesses, and gives a feel as to who has the higher ceiling.

In our first installment, we head to the high Class A Carolina League to investigate two of the top center field prospects in the game: Boston's Jacoby Ellsbury and Cleveland's Trevor Crowe.

Both players hail from Oregon, where the rivalry began in high school as Ellsbury, who played for Madras High, often squared off against Crowe's alma mater, Westfield High in Portland. They again faced each other in the Pacific-10 Conference, with Crowe at Arizona and Ellsbury with Oregon State.

And after each player went in the first round of last year's draft--Crowe to the Indians with the 14th overall pick, and Ellsbury eight picks later to the Red Sox--their careers again collided, this time in the short-season New York-Penn League. But neither player stuck around long enough in the NY-P to really renew any part of the old rivalry.

That had to wait until this year.

Ellsbury is the starting center fielder for high Class A Wilmington and Crowe at high Class A Kinston. Both players have plus speed on the basepaths, but other than that and the fact that they hail from the same area, there aren't many other similarities.

Ellsbury profiles as a leadoff hitter, where Crowe should hit lower in the order. Crowe also has more raw power than Ellsbury, who projects to hit 10-15 homers annually in the big leagues.

Both like to work counts and have solid plate discipline, though Ellsbury's approach and speed make him more of a leadoff threat. The separator, it seems, is defensive ability in center field.

And Crowe will be the first one to say so.

"I hadn't seen him since last year in school," Crowe said. "When I watch him play now, the one thing that I've seen in his game that I say to myself, 'God, I can get better in that,' is how he uses his speed so effectively in the outfield. I didn't see that in college. I see him take good routes and turn on his speed. That's major thing I notice in his game that's definitely a step above mine."

Moving Out Of Necessity?

Crowe could also be the first one to play himself off the position, since there has been talk of moving him to second base since he signed last June. The Indians front office toyed with the idea during instructional league, but decided to allow him to get comfortable at the plate and build some confidence before any position change would take place.

"A couple of things factored into that approach," Indians farm director John Farrell said. "One is he played some infield when he went to Arizona out of high school, and the other is the depth of our outfield and the youth of the outfield at the upper levels and particularly in Cleveland obviously with Grady (Sizemore).

"Our approach will be to really allow him to get his feet on the ground offensively, but I think this is something we're going to consider in the future going forward. And if we were ever going to make that switch, we'd like to do it in instructional league where we've got time to focus day in and day out rather than just throwing him in (at second) during the middle of the season."

The Breakdown

In addition to Crowe's breakdown of Ellsbury's defensive prowess, we caught up with a veteran scout who gave his assessment of why Ellsbury is more likely to stick in center field, while Crowe's position is seemingly headed for one of the corner spots--or the right side of the infield.

"Ellsbury, just on a performance-based analysis, has separated himself as a better defensive outfielder," the scout said. "I think Crowe has instincts, but I don't think he has the foot speed necessarily to be an everyday center fielder. I think Crowe has more raw power and will have more power production in the big leagues than Ellsbury, so that probably means he's better suited for one of the corner positions.

"I think Ellsbury is every bit of an everyday center fielder with all-star potential. Just his natural instincts; his natural foot speed to the ball is above-average. I also think that he's a legitimate leadoff guy, where Crowe is more of a No. 3 or 4 guy down the line.

"I think Ellsbury demonstrates much better tools to play the position. They're both going to be quality big leaguers. I just think that when you're talking about a premium position, when you can say a guy's going to be a plus defender in center field, be a table-setter/high on-base guy and bat in the .300 range, hit 10 or 15 home runs, that's a pretty special player.

"Crowe's going to hit too, and probably for more power. But for me, he profiles better in left or right. If he moves to second base, I think he's athletic enough to make that switch. But changing positions like that takes aptitude. Does he have the aptitude to be successful going to the infield? The athleticism is there, but that's only part of the equation."