Why Addison Russell Is A Hands Off Option Form Me In 2016

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

Let’s preface this by saying that there is upside in Addison Russell, especially long-term. He played last season at 21-years old and showed promise, so in time there’s a good chance that he realizes his full potential. In 2016, however, it’s fair to be skeptical that he can get there (or reasonably close).

He certainly didn’t blow anyone away with his rookie season numbers:

475 At Bats
.242 Batting Average (115 Hits)
13 Home Runs
54 RBI
60 Runs
4 Stolen Bases
.307 On Base Percentage
.389 Slugging Percentage
.324 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously the biggest issue is his average, and there’s ample reason to remain concerned despite his “improvement” in the second half (.259). It’s easy to point towards an improved strikeout rate, though no one is going to brag about a 25.8% mark (31.1% prior to the All-Star Break). He also showed no improvement in his Whiff% against Offspeed pitches or breaking balls throughout the season (only displaying months with at least 50 AB):

Month
AB
Breaking
Offspeed
May9922.38%22.22%
June8618.52%20.69%
July7814.13%22.73%
August9122.52%27.27%
September7924.35%20.00%

Overall he posted a 13.7% SwStr%, though it actually rose slightly to 13.8% in the second half (despite the drop in strikeouts). The struggles are justified given his age and relative lack of experience at the upper levels, but there is little reason to think that he’s going to fully figure it out quickly.

When you couple the likelihood of strikeouts with the line drive regression, there’s reason to be concerned about his average.

There is a little bit more speed than he showed last season as well as the potential for a little bit more pop (29 doubles, average distance on non-groundballs of 264.397), though neither is enough to move the needle. That’s not to say that he couldn’t go 15/10, with the potential for more, but the average risk prevents it from getting us overly excited.

According to Stats his current NFBC ADP is 139.40, which doesn’t seem particularly inflated. However that puts him ahead of Billy Burns (153.16), Raisel Iglesias (161.40), Michael Conforto (175.92) and a host of others who offer more upside and arguably less risk. You could argue he belongs in the same class as Joc Pederson (less power, but a different position), who is going nearly 40 picks later (176.56).

There’s a better chance that Russell hits .230 than .270, and without significant power or speed (yet) that’s not enough. Long-term would we love to own him? Absolutely, but given the cost/risk it’s highly unlikely he’s on any of my teams in 2016.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Heat Maps, Brooks Baseball, CBS Sports, STATS

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13 comments

  1. Jmax says:

    Prior to him reaching the MLB, all the scouting reports indicated that he would be a better baseball player than fantasy player and given all this information, that seems very true. He’s a great example of how the Mike Trout effect has changed fantasy baseball.

  2. ChrisL says:

    Great article…

    This season 12 team keeper league H2H, normal 5×5 with OBP instead of Avg; (keep 4):

    G. Cole
    M. Brantley
    C. Yelich
    R. Cano
    R. Braun
    L. Severino
    A. Russell
    H. Ramirez
    D. Peralta

    Thank you.

  3. Dave A W says:

    I find it funny how everyone is so in love with Seager this year but down on Russell. Let’s see, Seager has only a hand full of at bats against mlb pitchers while Russell spent pretty much a full season getting accustomed to the pros. Give me Russell iver Seager this year and in future years!

    • greg says:

      Seagers minor league numbers backup his brief MLB numbers… he’s never really had the high SO% that Russell had in the minors. That being said, i think Russell will improve but may take a bit longer. As for Seager – he might struggle a bit but all signs point him being very good.

      • MJ says:

        Do people really dig into numbers before commenting? Russels numbers the 2nd half of 2013 (A+) and the 2nd half of 2014 (AA) were terrific for one of the youngest players at those levels. 2nd half of 2013, 234 plate appearances he slashed .305/.425/.555 and had a so% of 27%. 2nd half of 2014, 203 plate appearances he slashed .294/.332/.536 and had a so% of 18%! He was 19 and 20 years old while doing that! He then made the jump all the way to the pros, played on playoff team, and very much held his own! Having watched almost everyone of his at bats last season I can also state that he not no favors in the batters box. I have never seen someone get called out on so many called third strikes that were clearly outside the zone! That should not happen as much going forward.

        I have nothing against Seager as I think he will also be a great player. But Russell is the superior defender and just as talented with the bat as Seager. I agree that Seager will have his striggles in 2015 as he learns the pitchers, while Russell should be able to take a big atep forward having a full year under his belt (in pressure games). My main concern on Russell are all of these minor injuries. He reminds me a bit of JD Drew in that respect.

  4. Justin says:

    I actually can’t believe Russell isn’t getting more hype. He played only 11 games at AAA, was the youngest regular in the NL, and has lots of power potential for a shortstop. I hope others are thinking like you Eric

  5. Rotoprofessor says:

    Dave A W – I would agree that Seager is getting slightly overvalued as well, though I do like his upside more.

    Justin – Sure there’s upside, I wouldn’t argue that, but you have to make contact to cash in on it. 15-20 HR, courtesy of a poor average, is hard to get excited about.

    • Steve says:

      Why do you think Russekl will have a low average? Do you think Seager will too? Nothing about Russell’s minir league numbers suggest a low average. He did improve every year as he adjusted to the league. And I agree with those that say he should be better positioned for a good year since he has a full season under his belt vs Seager he should struggle.

      • Jason says:

        I think a lot of it stems from the knowledge that he will be stuck in the 8th/9th spot either in-front of or behind a pitcher. That will kill his counting stats, but also hurt him as he will be pitched differently and rarely see a pitcher the 3rd or 4th time through, in which they generally get hit harder. So, he will face more power or filthy relievers.

      • Rotoprofessor says:

        His SwStr% alone, which “improved” as the season wore on but was still high, alone tells us that he could easily struggle with his average (as does his spot in the order, as Jason points out).

        As for Seager he’s not going to be a .330 hitter, I’d actually expect him more in the .265-.275 type range.

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