Addison Russell is the youngest player in the Cubs projected every day lineup. The 22-year old showed with the glove last season he belonged in the big leagues. Russell is the anchor defensively for an infield with three former All-Stars. This spring, the perennial Gold Glove shortstop has flashed the power most scouts projected before he was drafted.
Addison Russell held his own last season at the plate. In 142 games, Russell batted .242/.307/.389 with 29 doubles, one triple and 13 home runs for a .696 OPS. Russell not only had to learn how to hit in the big leagues last year, but during the first half in which he batted .226/.296/.354/.650 with 16 doubles and five home runs he also had to learn a new position, second base.
Russell looked like a different player at the plate once he moved back to short and appeared to gain confidence as the season wore on. Russell also made an adjustment with hitting coach John Mallee that produced results. Russell added a leg kick and went out and hit .259/.318/.427 after the break with 13 doubles, a triple and eight home runs for a .744 OPS.
Reports have indicated the leg kick that Mallee added to Russell’s mechanics helped him drive the ball and generate more power.
Joe Maddon recently said the biggest difference that he’s seen in Russell this spring is power. The ball is flying off his bat while making that sound that not all Major Leaguers can produce.
Russell was rather impressive during the first week of practice and he backed up Maddon’s comments on Friday during his first game of the spring.
Addison Russell launched a two-run home run to the berm in left. Russell hit it where the big boys have routinely put them over the first two springs at Sloan Park. Russell did not miss his pitch.
Joe Maddon has not announced whether or not he will bat the starting pitcher eighth or ninth this season. And before the first full squad workout he was still toying with hitting Russell ninth if he does not go with a traditional National League lineup this season.
The pre-season projections have Russell putting up similar numbers to his rookie campaign. Steamer projects a .247/.307/.394 line with 27 doubles, two triples, 14 home runs and a .701 OPS. ZiPS has Russell hitting .252/.307/.413 with a .720 OPS and PECOTA projects a .254/.301/.400 line with 16 home runs.
With the lineup Joe Maddon can run out on most days, the Cubs just need Russell to play Gold Glove-caliber defense at short.
If Addison Russell is able to stay healthy and on the same development path the Cubs could have another power bat in the lineup … and the best all-around shortstop in the National League.