Over the past couple of years, names like Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Jake Arrieta have become synonymous with the Chicago Cubs and have helped them become big stars on the national stage. However, too many of its fans, there’s one player that hasn’t really gotten the recognition he deserves and that’s shortstop Addison Russell. At just 22 years old, he’s already considered one of the top talents at his position and over the past year really started to make his mark.
In his second season, he made some small gains as he spent his first full year in the majors. He batted a decent .238/.321/.417 with 25 doubles, three triples, 21 home runs, 95 RBI and five stolen bases. Those 95 RBI were the first time a Cubs’ shortstop had over 90 runs batted in since Ernie Banks in 1960. He collected 86 of his RBI with runners on base and became one of the team’s most clutch bats. It’s likely why manager Joe Maddon had no problem hitting in the five-hole in the lineup at times. That faith paid off in Game 6 of the World Series when Russell went 2-for-5 with six RBI including a monster grand slam that made him the second youngest player to hit one in history of World Series play.
On defense, Russell was again one of the league’s best posting a 14.3 UZR rating, good for seventh in the league and was again robbed of a Gold Glove. His defensive prowess likely helped him earn his first All-Star game nomination starting with the rest of the Cubs infield. He also helped the team achieve the most defensive runs saved as a team and the club was considered one of the top five defenses of All-Time in Major League history. At just 22 years old, it’s likely that Russell will keep getting better and better at all facets of the game and next year will be a pivotal one for the kind of player he wants to be.
Spelling Russell at shortstop this year was Javier Baez, Ben Zobrist and Kris Bryant.
Javier Baez played in 25 games at short and posted a solid .289/.314/.446 with four doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI. There wasn’t much of a drop-off on defense as Baez posted an incredible 25.1 UZR rating in a small sample size. The front office has already stated that they plan for Baez to continue in a utility role despite a strong playoff performance and will likely continue to spell Russell as needed.
Zobrist and Bryant combined for just three innings at short last year and figure to be nothing more than emergency options. Zobrist hasn’t played consistently at the position since 2014 and has been below average in his career, so if the team needs him to play there for a long period of time, they’d likely be in a lot of trouble. Same goes for Bryant, whose one inning at short last year was the only time he’d played there in his pro career.
Cubs 2016 Position Reviews
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