Name: Addison Russell, SS
Age: 21 (1/23/1994)
Weight: 185 pounds
How acquired: Trade with Oakland along with OF Billy McKinney, RHP Dan Straily and cash for RHP Jeff Samardzija and RHP Jason Hammel on July 5, 2014.
Midland Rock Hounds, Texas League, AA (13 G, .333/.439/.500, 1 HR, 8 RBI);
Stockton Ports, California League, High A, (5 G, .188/.278/.188, 0 HR, 1 RBI);
Tennessee Smokies, Southern League, AA, (50 G, .294/.332/.536, 12 HR, 36 RBI).
Prior to Cubs
A star at Pace High School in Florida, Oakland used the 11th overall pick to take the shortstop who hit .358 with 8 HR, 33 RBI in 32 games as a senior in 2012. Some thought the A’s reached for the pick, as Russell weighed close to 220 pounds as a junior but changed his diet, improved his conditioning, and lost about 20 pounds before his senior season. After the draft, Russell inked a $2.65 million bonus and reported to camp, making his pro debut June 20 with a single and a RBI against the Angels in the Arizona Rookie League. After 26 games and a slash line of .415/.488/.717 with 6 HR and 29 RBI, Oakland promoted the 18-year-old to Vermont in the short-season New York-Penn League. That only lasted 13 games (.340/.386/.509, 1 HR, 9 RBI) before he was sent packing to Burlington and the Midwest League for the remainder of his first pro season. In 16 games with the Bees, Russell recorded an OPS of .818 and hit .310 with five stolen bases, bringing his season total up to 16. He was named an Arizona Rookie League All-Star and ended his first pro campaign with an impressive .389/.432/.594 slash line in over 244 plate appearances. Russell broke through the prospect watch roof in 2013, spending the year in the High A California League. He was named the League’s Rookie of the Year, a Cal-League post season all-star, played in Futures Game, and capped off the year with an all-star performance in the Arizona Fall League with the Mesa Solar Sox. In 107 games for the Stockton, Russell batted .275/.377/.508 with 17 HR, 60 RBI, 28 2B, 10 3B, and 21 SB, along with only 14 errors in over 941 innings. He spent the final three games of the season in AAA Sacramento.
Up for the test of AA and the Texas League, Russell started his season at Midland but that only lasted two games as he suffered a hamstring injury that landed him on the DL. The A’s top prospect missed the next two months, and after rehabbing in Arizona, returned to Stockton for a five-game tune-up. Russell headed back to Midland on June 17, and after starting 1-for-13 in his first three games, went on a eight-game hitting streak before that was halted by the July 4 news he had been traded to the Cubs. In his Cubs debut for Tennessee, he went 0-for-5 and fanned twice against Jacksonville. Russell showcased his talents at Smokies Park, hitting .294/.332/.536 in 50 games with 13 HR and 45 RBI. He was even more impressive on defense, committing just two errors in 210 chances.
With all the hype surrounding Kris Bryant, Russell gets lost in the prospect talk but that will change in the near future. He provides the Cubs with a wonderful problem but still needs to prove himself in AAA before heading to the big leagues. How long that takes will depend on his development at Iowa and what the front office has in store for the future of the Cubs infield. Russell has the ability to barrel up the ball and drive it to all fields. He presents a rare combination of a power bat at short and backs it up with one of the better gloves in all of baseball, thanks in part to a pair of quick, soft hands. While his thick frame is not ideal for the position, he shows good range and mobility, and a strong arm. Due to the number of quality players eligible for the Rule 5 draft and the fact Russell doesn’t need to be protected, could factor into a decision to promote him to the majors. However, if the Cubs do plan on taking the Kris Bryant route with Russell, that all could change if they find themselves contenders, make a trade, or injuries force their hand.