Addison Russell Now Playing Second Base in Iowa

by Matthew Roberts | Posted on Monday, April 20th, 2015
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Addison Russell

Hot on the heels of uber-prospect Kris Bryant being called up by the Chicago Cubs comes news that fellow prospect Addison Russell has made the switch from shortshop to second base at Triple-A Iowa.

As a quick refresher, Addison Russell was acquired by the Cubs last season from the Oakland Athletics in the deal for Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. At the time, Russell was easily the top prospect for an Oakland A’s farm system that had been depleted by the army of call-ups over the previous three years that had led to two straight AL West titles. Only 21, Russell has started his first full season at Triple-A Iowa with a bang,  amassing 12 hits in 10 games including his first career Triple-A home run.

This meteoric rise for Russell should come as no surprise based on his draft pedigree (1st round to Oakland in 2012) and his recent scouting report in October, 2014 by Baseball America. All of the grades on hitting, power, speed, fielding, and arm – the proverbial five tools – grade out as average (speed) or better. As a five-tool player, Russell can contribute on any team, especially at fielding premium spots like shortstop or second base.

The switch to second base opens up a myriad of options for the Cubs themselves. Russell’s primary spot was shortstop, but he’s blocked by three-time All-Star Starlin Castro who, although it feels like he has been in the majors forever, has only just turned 25. Further, Castro sits on a very team friendly contract with $59 million remaining over six years, including this year.

Meanwhile, second base is occupied currently by super-utility Domincan youngster Arismendy Alcantara. Alcantara, only 23, has been with the Cubs since 2008 and is a similarly toolsy player like Russell. However, unlike Russell, Alcantara can shift out to left field that is currently being manned by the underwhelming platoon of Chris Coghlan and Chris Denorfia.

Lastly, this makes Javier Baez, or possibly Castro, expendable down the road due to the glut of middle infielders. Baez, only 22, played 55 games last year for the Cubs splitting time almost evenly between shortstop and second base where he was slightly below average posting a -.3 dWAR, with an even worse offensive performance batting only .169 over 229 plate appearances. But Baez is very young and comes with elite 75 grade power. A lot of teams have regretted trading or releasing power plus hitters too early in their career before they’ve had a chance to fully mature at age 27 or 28. Baez, on potential, and Castro, on major league quality, could fetch back either a farm replenishment or another front line starter to contend with some of the pitching rich teams in the National League.

However, with this much young, potential star talent – Bryant, Alcantara, Baez, Russell, Castro, Jorge Soler, and even Anthony Rizzo are all 25 or younger – we might have the makings of a legitimate dynasty if President of Baseball Operation Theo Epstein. All of those aforementioned players are under team control for at least 5 years, and most for 6. This is product Epstein worked to produce over the last few years purging the roster. If I’m Theo, I’m standing pat, that lineup could be incredibly scary in the next 2-3 years.

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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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