Kris Bryant is garnering all of the headlines and the attention this spring and rightfully so. Bryant is arguably the best prospect in baseball, plus he’s abused just about every baseball he’s hit in the Cactus League. But one of the other top prospects in the system might be having a better spring than Bryant and he’s somehow flying under the radar.
Addison Russell is quietly going about his business this spring. And Russell’s not just getting his work in and going through the motions. Russell is performing at the plate and in the field. One look at Russell at shortstop and it’s easy to see why the A’s thought last spring he would make his Major League debut at some point during the season.
Russell has been as advertised and there is a reason the Cubs were excited about acquiring him last summer from Oakland. Russell can flat out play baseball, and he just turned 21 years old.
By now everyone has read his minor league numbers, and what he’s accomplished at the plate is truly impressive, but those numbers don’t tell half the story of how good Russell actually is on the field.
Addison Russell is a shortstop in every definition of the word. Russell has excellent range to his left and right, good footwork, a quick release and more than enough arm for the position. And he has the hands for the position or mandible claws as Smokies’ broadcaster Mick Gillispie describes them. Russell’s defense this spring, combined with what he’s produced at the plate, and it’s easy to see why the Cubs are not interested in trading him for pitching as so many reports have suggested since the front office acquired him last summer.
Offensively, Russell appears to step into the box with a plan. He’s just not up there swinging away or for the fences. Russell uses the entire field and doesn’t seem to miss a fastball. Russell has quick wrists which produces elite bat speed.
In seven Cactus League games, Russell is 7-for-19 with three doubles, a stolen base, two walks and three strikeouts which is a .368/.429/.526 line for a .955 OPS.
“I can’t believe he is 21,” Joe Maddon told the New York Posts’ Joel Sherman. “Not when you see the maturity and the ability and the strength. As a shortstop, on defense, there is no wasted motion in his game.”
A debate is brewing throughout baseball which one of the new crop of shortstops pushing their way to the majors is better than the other. And if Addison Russell is not at the head of the new class that consists of Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor and Corey Seager, he’s a close second.
Addison Russell is with the big league team on a non-roster invite and will be re-assigned to minor league camp soon. Russell will begin the season at the Triple-A level as Iowa’s shortstop, and that’s the right step in his development. Russell has played only three games at the Triple-A level back in 2013.
But based on the way he’s played in the field and his approach at the plate, not the numbers he’s produced in the Cactus League, Theo Epstein is going to have another Scott Boras client on his big league roster because Addison Russell is not far away from playing at Wrigley Field.