Addison Russell Called Up By The Chicago Cubs

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Tuesday, April 21st, 2015
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The Chicago Cubs are quickly reflecting their their mascot (a cub is a baby bear, after all) after they announced the promotion of top prospect Addison Russell today, hours after confirming they were grooming him at Triple-A Iowa for a move to second base from his natural shortstop position.

Calling up Addison Russell potentially puts 5 position players aged 25 or younger on the field at the same time for the Cubs: Anthony Rizzo, 25, at first base; Russell, 21, at second base, Starlin Castro, 25 at shortstop; Kris Bryant, 23, at third base, and Jorge Soler, both 23, in the outfield. To make room for Russell, the Cubs optioned Arismendy Alcantara, 23, to Triple-A. The move to promote Russell right now puzzles me. Russell, acquired by the Cubs during the midseason last year from the Oakland Athletics as part of the Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel deal certainly has the tools and pedigree to succeed. But now the Cubs appear to be playing musical chairs with their infield.

The Cubs admittedly have had a rough start at second base with Alcantara hitting .077 in 8 games at the keystone, while journeyman Jonathan Herrera has hit .182 in 6 games there. However, it is quite early in the season with very small sample sizes. What happens if Alcantara starts tearing it up in Iowa and Russell struggles to hit .200 over the next couple of weeks? Russell has less than 60 plate appearances at the Triple-A level between Iowa and the Athletics’ old Triple-A affiliate Sacramento. In Alcantara’s only Triple-A stint, he slashed .307/.353/.537 with 10 home runs and 21 stolen bases in 89 games. Alcantara struggled a little with his contact rate when he was called up but still flashed that exciting power/speed combination hitting 10 home runs and stealing 8 bases in 70 games. Alcantara in my mind has nothing left to prove at Triple-A. Not so with Russell.

The timing of the move is also puzzling, as Alcantara’s slumping bat hasn’t hurt the Cubs. They’ve jumped out to a 7-5 record only a game and half back of the St. Louis Cardinals in a year when most, myself included, suspected the Cubs would need a year of seasoning before contending for the division crown and beyond. President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein must think otherwise in order to make such a quick move to replace one slumping youngster with another even less experienced player. In my mind, Epstein’s legacy is secure having broken “the curse” with the Boston Red Sox. But, for many, your legacy is only as good as what you did last. Epstein has tied his entire legacy and reputation to this band of baby bears and must believe Russell was a vital piece for this season. I suspect with a still loaded farm system boasting some top prospects like C/LF Kyle Schwarber and CF Albert Almora the Cubs aren’t done reshuffling this roster through trade. But, for now, we wait and see if Russell can make his mark early and often at the big league level.

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Matthew Roberts
About the Author

Matthew cut his teeth on baseball during $2 Bleacher Wednesdays at the old Arlington Stadium in the 1980's and has loved the Texas Rangers ever since. When he's not teaching his young son to throw a wicked circle change, he enjoys the six month friendly rivalry with his wife and her precious Oakland A's. Follow him on Twitter @ifithasballs.

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