Ellsbury top position player on AL MVP ballot

Ellsbury top position player on AL MVP ballot

Ellsbury top position player on AL MVP ballot
BOSTON -- Jacoby Ellsbury's transformation from table-setter to game-changer was dramatic enough that he finished higher than any other position player in the American League's Most Valuable Player Award voting, which was released Monday.

The Red Sox's leadoff man and center fielder finished second to Tigers ace Justin Verlander, who became the first starting pitcher to win an MVP since Boston's Roger Clemens back in 1986.

Ellsbury took his game up several notches in 2012, putting together a rare combination of speed, power and defense.

"Really proud of him -- a guy we drafted who came up through the system and certainly had a breakout year," said Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington. "No matter where he finished in the MVP voting, we knew he was going to get strong consideration. He's clearly become one of the great players in the league, a huge part of this team."

But Verlander, in the eyes of the voters, was just a little more valuable, receiving 13 first-place votes, three second-place votes and three third-place votes, finishing with 280 total points. Verlander was left off one ballot entirely.

Then there was Ellsbury, who got four first-place votes, 13 second-place votes, four third-place votes, one fourth-place vote, four fifth-place votes, one sixth-place vote and one 10th-place vote for 242 total points.

Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista placed third.

Ellsbury's teammate, Adrian Gonzalez, finished seventh, receiving 105 votes. Dustin Pedroia was the third Sox player to finish in the top 10, getting 48 points for a nine-place finish.

"I'm really pulling for Jacoby," Gonzalez said a couple of weeks ago. "I think he had a great year from every aspect of the game, and I think he's a great guy and I'm never going to be one to vote for myself. I think Verlander has a great argument as well, but I hope Jacoby gets it."

Though Ellsbury didn't get the MVP, he did earn himself several other pieces of hardware in recent weeks. In October, Ellsbury was named the AL Comeback Player of the Year. Earlier this month, the center fielder won the AL Rawlings Gold Glove Award and a spot on the AL Silver Slugger team.

After playing just 18 games in 2010 because of left rib fractures, Ellsbury came all the way back to have a monster season. He hit .321 with 119 runs, 212 hits, 46 doubles, 32 homers, 105 RBIs, 364 total bases and 39 stolen bases.

"It's pretty fun to see, especially after the frustration he felt last year," Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan said in August. "He's played with a chip on his shoulder. There were strides made in 2009. Certainly there were concerns after missing the whole year last year. He picked up right where he left off and improved upon it. It's fun to watch. Like I said, he wasn't happy with a lot of the stuff that was said about him. He's playing with a little bit of an attitude like, 'Hey, I'm going to prove a lot of people wrong.'"

The power surge was most eye-opening because Ellsbury's previous highs in homers and RBIs were nine and 60.

"He helps our team win games in 50 different ways," Pedroia said late in the 2011 season.

Ellsbury came close to being Boston's first MVP since Pedroia in 2008.

"I think I'm doing a little bit of everything," Ellsbury said during the summer. "I'm getting on base, creating opportunities for my teammates. I'm just having a good time out there playing. I'm excited just after the season I had last year, just being out on the field every single day. It's been great."

While the Red Sox as a team went 7-20 in September, Ellsbury had a brilliant month, hitting .358 with eight homers and 21 RBIs.

The Sox drafted Ellsbury in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft out of Oregon State. His first taste of prominence came in '07, when he went from September callup to World Series hero.

At the age of 28, Ellsbury is just entering his prime.

In other words, he might be wise to save some room in his trophy case for future MVP races.

American League Most Valuable Player voting totals
Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th Points
Justin Verlander Tigers 13 3 3 4 1 2   1     280
Jacoby Ellsbury Red Sox 4 13 4 1 4 1       1 242
Jose Bautista Blue Jays 5 7 4 4 4 1 1 1 1   231
Curtis Granderson Yankees 3 4 4 8 6 1 2       215
Miguel Cabrera Tigers 2   9 5 5 2 4   1   193
Robinson Cano Yankees     2 2 3 6 4 5 1 1 112
Adrian Gonzalez Red Sox     1 1 2 6 8 3 3 1 105
Michael Young Rangers 1 1 1 1 1 1 4 7 4 2 96
Dustin Pedroia Red Sox           4 1 4 6   48
Evan Longoria Rays       2     1 2   3 27
Ian Kinsler Rangers         1 2 1 1 1   25
Alex Avila Tigers             1 1 2 2 13
Paul Konerko White Sox                 5 1 11
CC Sabathia Yankees           2         10
Adrian Beltre Rangers               2 1 1 9
Ben Zobrist Rays         1         1 7
Victor Martinez Tigers               1 1 2 7
James Shields Rays                 1 5 7
Mark Teixeira Yankees             1     1 5
Asdrubal Cabrera Indians                 1 2 4
Alex Gordon Royals                   3 3
Josh Hamilton Rangers                   1 1
David Robertson Yankees                    1 1

Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Brownie Points, and follow him on Twitter @IanMBrowne. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.