by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
We all knew that Kris Bryant would join the Cubs soon after the start of the 2015 season. We all also knew that Addison Russell would make an impact this season, though most thought his arrival would come later in the season. Apparently that wasn’t the script in Chicago, as less than a week after Bryant was summoned to the Majors comes word that Russell will join him.
Considered one of the elite prospects in the game, the Cubs acquired Russell last season in the deal that sent Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammell to Oakland. Through 11 games at Triple-A this season he was hitting .318 with 1 HR and 9 RBI.
Even more impressive was his 7 K in 44 AB, which is important when looking at Cubs’ prospects. While strikeouts always appear to be a concern (just look at Bryant and Javier Baez), Russell posted a 17.1% strikeout rate in 68 games in 2014.
The 11th overall selection in 2012, he owns a minor league slash of .301/.377/.520 while showing both power and speed. Last season he posted a 17.3% HR/OFB while his average came courtesy of a realistic .323 BABIP. While the stolen base numbers regressed (6 SB), he’s stolen as many as 21 in a season and had 38 over 761 PA over his first two seasons.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that everyone was raving about the now 21-year old and his potential 20/20 upside prior to the season:
MLB.com – Few shortstops can match Russell’s offensive upside. He posted .300/.379/.522 numbers over his first three pro seasons, reached Double-A at age 20 and won’t require much more time in the Minors. He has explosive bat speed, a mature approach and a knack for barreling the ball that should allow him to continue producing for power and average when he gets to Chicago.
Rich Wilson of Prospect 361 – “The tools start with premium bat speed that should allow him to produce 20 to 25 home runs once he acclimates himself to the big leagues. He also has an advanced approach at the plate and while there is some swing and miss in his game, he also has very good plate discipline and together, he should post a .280 plus batting average with a .360 plus on-base percentage. Throw in the ability to steal double-digit stolen bases and you quickly see what all the fuss is about with Russell.”
The question entering the season was where Russell would fit into Chicago’s lineup, but he’s leapfrogged Baez and will get an opportunity to be the team’s starting 2B (there’s no way the Cubs called him up to sit on the bench). While he’s seen just a handful of games at the position, clearly the Cubs feel like he’s ready.
Exactly what should we expect? He’s not going to hit .300+ initially, as there are going to be growing pains, but .260-.270 is realistic with the potential for more. The power is already there, so 15ish HR is also realistic (though he could add a few more playing in Wrigley with the wind blowing out). The speed is the most questionable aspect, but 5-10 SB is fair. That means a conservative expectation could be .260/14/8, which would’ve put him right in the #6-8 range among shortstops prior to the season.
Obviously he’s a must own option in all formats, especially given his upside and the likelihood that he brings eligibility at both second base and shortstop. Like with all young players there will likely be some bumps along the way, but if he’s available grab him in all formats.
Sources – MILB.com, Minor League Central, Baseball Reference, MLB.com, Prospect 361
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