Scouting Yankees Prospect #36: Kevin Russo

The Yankees drafted utility infielder Kevin Russo out of Baylor University in the 20th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. He followed up his 2007 Florida State League All-Star season as a second baseman with another strong showing in Double-A this year as a utility man, enough to earn a trip to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League and now he's getting close to being a big league utility option.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Kevin Russo
Position: Second Base/Utility
DOB: July 8, 1984
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 190
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

"I thought it was a pretty productive year," said Russo. "Going out to the [Arizona] Fall League was a big help to give me some at-bats. I had a great time this year, I learned a lot, and I thought it was a pretty productive year for me."

He ended up hitting .307 while playing second base, third base, and left field for the Trenton Thunder this past season, a year after hitting .281 with 19 stolen bases as the second baseman for the Tampa Yankees.

Showing glimpses of speed, a solid bat, good gap power, clutch situational hitting, and defensive versatility over the past two seasons, the right-handed hitter has opened up some eyes in the organization as a viable big league utility option.

"I would hope so and I would love to think so," he admitted. "I can't really think about it too much.

"I just have to go out there and do what I do, play my game and try not to think about it too much. You always hope though that people all over are watching you, whether it's people from the Yankees or someone else."

Russo's stock seemed to peak with his mere appointment to the highly regarded Arizona Fall League this offseason, but it shot up even further when he finished hitting .309 with three home runs in just 30 games for the Peoria Javelinas and added both shortstop and right field to his litany of defensive positions.

Considering he was such a late-round draft pick and has had to fight his way for more playing time each and every year, he has also earned the reputation as one of the hardest workers in the entire organization.

"I've had to work hard for everything my whole life," he said. "I wouldn't want anyone to just give me anything. I know you have to work for everything you get, that's what I've always been taught. That's how I go about things.

"I've had maybe a little bit tougher road than others but I try not to think about it like everything else. I just go out there and play as hard as I can.

His willingness to do whatever is asked of him is only surpassed by his ability to play multiple positions well as his greatest attribute.

"I've always played different positions growing up," he revealed. "If someone needed me to plug in somewhere, they'd ask me could I do it and I'd say ‘sure, yeah'.

"Out in the Fall League I played third [base], second, shortstop, left field, right field, etc. I was taking reps pretty much everywhere. And I hit one through nine in the lineup. It's just wherever they put me and I do what I do, just play my game and not try to get out of character."

Playing everywhere in the field and playing it well, and doing it at some of the highest minor league levels, has put him on the doorstep to the big leagues and Russo realizes it's his versatility that could help punch his ticket to the Bronx in the very near future.

"I don't think it's going to hurt," he said. "It'll definitely help if I can play anywhere. It'll be easier for them to plug me in if I'm hitting good and they need somebody wherever it is.

"It just gives you more opportunities instead of just one position. Instead of just one position I can play all sorts of different positions. I think it would help anybody."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2008 Trenton .307 267 17 2 33 46 8 23 42 .363 .416
2007 Tampa .281 385 22 2 45 47 19 15 66 .311 .369
2006 GCL Yankees .273 150 10 3 23 23 6 20 18 .383 .400


Batting and Power. Russo is a disciplined hitter who excels in all phases of situational hitting. He is a very good contact hitter who is adept at putting balls in play. He is very good in hit-and-run situations, he can lay down bunts, go to the opposite field, hit in the clutch, and move runners over very well. He also has good power from gap-to-gap, and while he hasn't hit for many home runs so far in his career, he does have a solid frame and good enough loft to hit for more power as he gains more experience.

Base Running and Speed. He doesn't have the greatest wheels for a middle infielder but he does have good speed for a thicker-built player. He has a good first step and he can be quite aggressive on the base paths. His all-out hustle also helps him take the extra bases when needed. He doesn't project to be a major threat on the bases but he can help his team in the speed department.

Defense. Russo's greatest strength defensively is his ability to man multiple positions well. He is most comfortable at second base - his natural position - but his arm is also strong enough to play a solid third base and even some outfield. He also has good enough range that he could play some shortstop in short spells as well. He's not an elite defensive player at any one position but he does play them all pretty well.

Projection. Russo's defensive and offensive versatility, as well as his blue-collar approach makes him one of the better utility prospects in the organization. In a lot of ways Russo is like Cubs second baseman Mark De Rosa, albeit Russo is more of a natural second baseman than a shortstop. Like De Rosa, Russo's biggest negative is his lack of true home run power but excels in situational hitting and brings a workmanlike approach to the game. They even have similar builds. And just like De Rosa, he should break into the big leagues as a utility prospect initially and he could become a valuable bench player.

ETA. 2010. Russo should open up the 2009 season with the Scranton Yankees as the team's utility player and he'll be one short phone call away from helping out the Yankees. With just two full minor league seasons under his belt, however, it seems like a safer bet that he'll need one more year of minor league seasoning.

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\r\n \r\n\r\nVital Statistics:
\r\nName: Kevin Russo
\r\nPosition: Second Base/Utility
\r\nDOB: July 8, 1984
\r\nHeight: 5'11\"
\r\nWeight: 190
\r\nBats: Right
\r\nThrows: Right
\r\n
\r\n\"I thought it was a pretty productive year,\" said Russo. \"Going out to the [Arizona] Fall League was a big help to give me some at-bats. I had a great time this year, I learned a lot, and I thought it was a pretty productive year for me.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe ended up hitting .307 while playing second base, third base, and left field for the Trenton Thunder this past season, a year after hitting .281 with 19 stolen bases as the second baseman for the Tampa Yankees.
\r\n
\r\nShowing glimpses of speed, a solid bat, good gap power, clutch situational hitting, and defensive versatility over the past two seasons, the right-handed hitter has opened up some eyes in the organization as a viable big league utility option.
\r\n
\r\n\"I would hope so and I would love to think so,\" he admitted. \"I can't really think about it too much.
\r\n
\r\n\"I just have to go out there and do what I do, play my game and try not to think about it too much. You always hope though that people all over are watching you, whether it's people from the Yankees or someone else.\"
\r\n
\r\nRusso's stock seemed to peak with his mere appointment to the highly regarded Arizona Fall League this offseason, but it shot up even further when he finished hitting .309 with three home runs in just 30 games for the Peoria Javelinas and added both shortstop and right field to his litany of defensive positions.
\r\n
\r\nConsidering he was such a late-round draft pick and has had to fight his way for more playing time each and every year, he has also earned the reputation as one of the hardest workers in the entire organization.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've had to work hard for everything my whole life,\" he said. \"I wouldn't want anyone to just give me anything. I know you have to work for everything you get, that's what I've always been taught. That's how I go about things.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've had maybe a little bit tougher road than others but I try not to think about it like everything else. I just go out there and play as hard as I can.
\r\n
\r\nHis willingness to do whatever is asked of him is only surpassed by his ability to play multiple positions well as his greatest attribute.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've always played different positions growing up,\" he revealed. \"If someone needed me to plug in somewhere, they'd ask me could I do it and I'd say ‘sure, yeah'.
\r\n
\r\n\"Out in the Fall League I played third [base], second, shortstop, left field, right field, etc. I was taking reps pretty much everywhere. And I hit one through nine in the lineup. It's just wherever they put me and I do what I do, just play my game and not try to get out of character.\"
\r\n
\r\nPlaying everywhere in the field and playing it well, and doing it at some of the highest minor league levels, has put him on the doorstep to the big leagues and Russo realizes it's his versatility that could help punch his ticket to the Bronx in the very near future.
\r\n
\r\n\"I don't think it's going to hurt,\" he said. \"It'll definitely help if I can play anywhere. It'll be easier for them to plug me in if I'm hitting good and they need somebody wherever it is.
\r\n
\r\n\"It just gives you more opportunities instead of just one position. Instead of just one position I can play all sorts of different positions. I think it would help anybody.\"
\r\n
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\r\n

Year

\r\n

Team

\r\n

AVG

\r\n

AB

\r\n

2B

\r\n

HR

\r\n

RBI

\r\n

R

\r\n

SB

\r\n

BB

\r\n

SO

\r\n

OBP

\r\n

SLG

\r\n 2008\r\n Trenton\r\n .307\r\n 267\r\n 17\r\n 2\r\n 33\r\n 46\r\n 8\r\n 23\r\n 42\r\n .363\r\n .416
\r\n 2007\r\n Tampa\r\n .281\r\n 385\r\n 22\r\n 2\r\n 45\r\n 47\r\n 19\r\n 15\r\n 66\r\n .311\r\n .369
\r\n 2006\r\n GCL Yankees\r\n .273\r\n 150\r\n 10\r\n 3\r\n 23\r\n 23\r\n 6\r\n 20\r\n 18\r\n .383\r\n .400

\r\n
\r\nBatting and Power. Russo is a disciplined hitter who excels in all phases of situational hitting. He is a very good contact hitter who is adept at putting balls in play. He is very good in hit-and-run situations, he can lay down bunts, go to the opposite field, hit in the clutch, and move runners over very well. He also has good power from gap-to-gap, and while he hasn't hit for many home runs so far in his career, he does have a solid frame and good enough loft to hit for more power as he gains more experience.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed. He doesn't have the greatest wheels for a middle infielder but he does have good speed for a thicker-built player. He has a good first step and he can be quite aggressive on the base paths. His all-out hustle also helps him take the extra bases when needed. He doesn't project to be a major threat on the bases but he can help his team in the speed department.
\r\n
\r\nDefense. Russo's greatest strength defensively is his ability to man multiple positions well. He is most comfortable at second base - his natural position - but his arm is also strong enough to play a solid third base and even some outfield. He also has good enough range that he could play some shortstop in short spells as well. He's not an elite defensive player at any one position but he does play them all pretty well.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. Russo's defensive and offensive versatility, as well as his blue-collar approach makes him one of the better utility prospects in the organization. In a lot of ways Russo is like Cubs second baseman Mark De Rosa, albeit Russo is more of a natural second baseman than a shortstop. Like De Rosa, Russo's biggest negative is his lack of true home run power but excels in situational hitting and brings a workmanlike approach to the game. They even have similar builds. And just like De Rosa, he should break into the big leagues as a utility prospect initially and he could become a valuable bench player.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2010. Russo should open up the 2009 season with the Scranton Yankees as the team's utility player and he'll be one short phone call away from helping out the Yankees. With just two full minor league seasons under his belt, however, it seems like a safer bet that he'll need one more year of minor league seasoning.
\r\n
\r\n

\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n\r\n
\r\n

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