Addison Russell may be only 20 years old, but he is already at the center of 100 years of disappointment. Russell knows the history of the Cubs organization: 106 years without a World Series, 69 years without a pennant, the billy goat, the Bartman game and all the rest. None of that matters now, though.
Russell is the latest big acquisition by Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Acquired from the Oakland Athletics in a July 4, blockbuster trade, Russell is now a central figure in the Cubs long term plans--but so are six other infielders.
Russell knows that there is a logjam of players in the cubs infield, but does not necessarily see that as being a problem.
“The upcoming talent, with all the prospects that we have, ya know it’s just an exciting thing,” Russell said. “We just have a lot of talent.”
Russell comes to the organization with great fanfare, and has been expected to produce, immediately. Smokies manager Buddy Bailey even has him batting 3rd in the Smokies lineup. That's Kris Bryant's old spot. Although he went 0-9 in his first 3 games with his new AA club, Russell grabbed two hits in five plate appearances during his first game at Smokies Park on Thursday night and knocked in a pair on Friday with two more hits.
It is clear that big things are expected from the Pace, Florida native. Russell is a former number 1 pick of Billy Beane's Athletics. He has been rated by some as a better prospect than even Kris Bryant. His all around play has drawn comparisons to that of Reds Hall of Famer Barry Larkin. The biggest difference between the two, according to some, is that Addison Russell can drive the ball with power. His batting stance is reminiscent of former Cubs 1st baseman Derrek Lee's. Right handed, slightly open, bat held high, and his eyes square to the pitcher. There is a pure sound when Russell makes contact with the ball. So pure, in fact, that Smokies fans say it sounds like Kris Bryant is back in Kodak.
These comparisons may be the reason it appears--for now--that Russell is the Cubs shortstop of the future.
“They have not talked to me about anything like that,” Russell said, when asked about the possibility of changing positions. “All I know is that I’m playing shortstop for the AA team for the Cubs and that’s all I know for right now.”
With Starlin Castro's defensive history and Arismendy Alcantara already working in the outfield, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to see a lineup that includes many, if not all of the Cubs young prospects. If Russell stays at short, Castro could move to second where he would have shorter throws and more time to get the ball to Rizzo at first. Alcantara's speed makes him a prime candidate to cover center field with Jorge Soler in right and either Baez or Bryant in left with the other at third base.
This could be a dream lineup at Wrigley Field, where every baseball fan knows home runs can be cheap and plentiful.
“It’s an exciting thing,” said Russell. ”I think that we’re going to be a powerhouse lineup once everyone is up to that level.”
Even with that lineup, the Cubs may still be overloaded. What about Albert Almora, and this 2014 first round pick Kyle Schwarber? An overload of quality position players is something Cubs fans and Cubs brass can both agree is a great problem to have.
Right now this group is very young and all of them still have a lot of work to do before they can be the team Cubs fans have waited so many years for. Russell knows that and says he is ready to put in the necessary time and effort.
“Whenever they decide we’re ready to be big leaguers, that’s when we’re ready. Until that time we just have a lot of talent in the farm system,” said Russell. “I just want to go out there and produce. I want to have fun and show all the Cubs players what kind of short stop they’re getting.”
One thing is certain though. With Addison Russell now in the fold, the future looks very bright. Russell is still young and may need another year or two to develop to his full potential, but what's another couple years on top of 106?
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