Tuesday, February 9, 2016


The massive pipeline of top hitting and pitching prospects coming out of the Chicago Cubs minor league system continued unabated in 2016 as shortstop Addison Russell was given the call to at first man second base by the team.  The 22-year-old was universally acclaimed as one of the best prospects regardless of position in the game and he was the main piece that came back to the team in the Jason Hammel trade from the Oakland A's.  While there were some struggles (which was helped by Cubs manager Joe Maddon foolishly putting Russell in the eighth or ninth spot in the order for a majority of the season), there was ample evidence of how good an offensive player he could be.  Let's dig in and find out.

As far as numbers were concerned, Russell was able to put forth the following statistics as a rookie in 2015:

13 HR
54 RBI
60 R
4 SB

While those numbers are not overly impressive outside of the power, Russell's ceiling is tremendous.  What quickly stands out is that Russell has very good power, especially for a shortstop where he will play from the start of the 2016 season.  While he is not in Carlos Correa's league yet in that category, Russell looks like a future 20-home run guy and maybe even more than that as he continues to mature and develop.  The Cubs will move up Russell in the order this season, with him possibly landing in the fifth or sixth spot.  With the home runs will go a good number of RBI as well, especially hitting behind the big thumpers in the order such as Anthony Rizzo and Kyle Schwarber.  As far as the runs are concerned, Russell should be around the 65 range this season and maybe more as the Cubs lineup is stacked. 

Now for the two categories that are a bit shaky.  The first is batting average as Russell struggled badly there in 2015 with his .242 mark.  Of course like we said, a lot of the blame can go to his slot in the eighth or ninth spot in the order which means not a lot of good pitches to hit.  However Russell didn't help himself by striking out at a very high 28.5 percent clip.  That has to improve for Russell to post useful average and the bright side is that his K rate was in the mid-teens in the minors which is much more palatable.  While Russell is still finding his way and remains with holes in his swing, a .260 average is likely and maybe even a run at .275.  Again not great but improvement should be there this season.  Finally, Russell is not a big runner, with just 4 steals in 2015.  His high in the minors was a decent 21 but that came in 2011 in A-Ball.  Since then, Russell has been a mid-single digit steals guy and that doesn't seem to be a part of his game that will help his fantasy baseball owners. 

When you put it all together, Addison Russell remains very talented and filled with upside.  He is incredibly young at 21 and that means there is room for a ton of improvement as he continues on his career.  At the always volatile shortstop spot, Russell has even more value than the second base he played in 2015.  The pop quieted a bit here due to the somewhat underwhelming numbers Russell put up as a rookie but that just means he can be such a better buy this season. 

2016 PROJECTION:  .262 16 HR 65 RBI 63 R 7 SB 


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