Scouting Yankees Prospect #48: Kevin Russo

The Yankees drafted utility infielder Kevin Russo out of Baylor University in the 20th round of the 2006 MLB Draft. All the later round pick has done since then has earned Florida State League All Star honors in 2007, a trip to the Arizona Fall League in 2008, and recently he's been added to the 40-man roster after setting career highs in 2009.

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

"I was happy," Russo said of being protected on the 40-man roster. "It was pretty cool being added on and that they protected me.

"I really didn't know what was going to happen but I wasn't really surprised. Either way I would have taken it how it was, but I'm glad they did it and I'm happy."

He ended up setting career highs with a .326 average, 51 runs scored, five home runs, 42 walks, and a .397 on-base percentage in 2009. In fact the only blight on his season was missing nearly six weeks of action with a nagging hamstring injury.

"I had a good year," he said. "There's always stuff I can improve on though that I'm working on right now, but I was happy with my year and I had a great time."

Known for being a hard-nosed player willing to do anything it takes to improve his game and help his teams win, even though Russo is now on the doorstep of helping the big league club after a career year, he isn't content just yet.

"There's always things you need to work on, it doesn't matter what your batting average is or how good you are.

"There's always stuff to work on, the little things – agility, footwork, defense, getting stronger – there's a bunch of things to work on. I couldn't really pinpoint it to one thing. It doesn't boil down to one thing."

His winning attitude isn't the only trait he brings to the organization. The other, his versatility, is almost as valuable.

"I want to get better at all of them," he said of playing second base, shortstop, third base, and the outfield. "I feel comfortable wherever they put me. I'm always trying to have fun out there and do my job. That goes into the things that I have to work on this offseason, working on all of those positions."

His grittiness and determination, while mostly innate, have also been harbored over the years by his insatiable desire to defy the odds of being a later-round pick to reach the big leagues and prove his doubters wrong.

"I guess you could say that to a certain extent," he added, "but there's always going to be doubters wherever you're at. That's definitely one of my main goals, to prove people wrong.

"All of my life people have said ‘you're not this or you're not that'. I like to show them my abilities, show them what I can do, and it feels good to come from a 20th round guy who wasn't high up to prove myself a little bit."

While he isn't blessed with the greatest set of tools, playing with that proverbial chip on his shoulder makes him a different type of player in Pinstripes.

"I'm not going to be a guy that's going to [overwhelm you] if you see me just one day," he admitted. "I'm the kind of guy that goes out there to do my job and I do a lot of little things right. I can bring versatility as well as offense."

And with finishing as strong as he did - hitting .380 with four home runs and 17 walks in the month of August - Russo is peaking at the right time. However, he still feels that he hasn't shown his best game yet.

"I can definitely be better than that," he opined. "There's always room for improvement in every aspect. I want to be better each season. That's something I want to do and I know that's something I'm capable of doing."

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2009 Scranton .326 353 18 5 31 51 13 42 55 .397 .431
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 has proven to be an exceptional contact hitter over his career, striking out just 181 times in 1,155 career at-bats, and that makes him one of the better situational hitters in the organization. He has always shown above average plate discipline and now he is also starting to show an ability to draw a good number of walks. He doesn't have very much power, having the potential to possibly reach double-digit home run totals if given a full-time job someday, but his ability to hit in the clutch, lay down bunts, and excel in hit-and-run situations and move runners overshadow his lack of plus power.

Base Running and Speed. Russo is more aggressive on the base paths than having great speed. An average runner overall, he makes up for it with incredible hustle and baseball smarts. He reads pitchers moves well, knows when he can take the extra base, and his head is always in the running game. He can help his team running the bases even though he doesn't project to be a big base stealer.

Defense. Just like in every aspect of his game, Russo is solid on the defensive side of the ball. He has a decent arm, solid range, and good hands. He's not an elite defender physically, but he can play second base and third base well, and he even play the outfield and shortstop if called upon. His overall intelligence puts him in good position to make plays.

Projection. On a smaller market team Russo has the overall game to someday potentially project as a starting second baseman, his natural defensive position. But with a large market team like the Yankees, he provides an excellent backup to second baseman Robinson Cano and is better served filling a utility role and bench player with his offensive situational hitting and defensive versatility. Think Mark De Rosa, who has a similar build, for a comparison, although Russo has a little more speed and is more of a natural second baseman than shortstop.

ETA. 2010. With nothing else to prove at the minor league level and now a member of the 40-man roster, Russo is ready to contribute at the big league level. He'll have to fight the likes of Ramiro Pena for the utility role, but even if he starts in Triple-A Scranton next year he'll be just one phone call away from helping out.

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Pinstripes Plus Top Stories

\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 was happy,\" Russo said of being protected on the 40-man roster. \"It was pretty cool being added on and that they protected me.
\r\n
\r\n\"I really didn't know what was going to happen but I wasn't really surprised. Either way I would have taken it how it was, but I'm glad they did it and I'm happy.\"
\r\n
\r\nHe ended up setting career highs with a .326 average, 51 runs scored, five home runs, 42 walks, and a .397 on-base percentage in 2009. In fact the only blight on his season was missing nearly six weeks of action with a nagging hamstring injury.
\r\n
\r\n\"I had a good year,\" he said. \"There's always stuff I can improve on though that I'm working on right now, but I was happy with my year and I had a great time.\"
\r\n
\r\nKnown for being a hard-nosed player willing to do anything it takes to improve his game and help his teams win, even though Russo is now on the doorstep of helping the big league club after a career year, he isn't content just yet.
\r\n
\r\n\"There's always things you need to work on, it doesn't matter what your batting average is or how good you are.
\r\n
\r\n\"There's always stuff to work on, the little things – agility, footwork, defense, getting stronger – there's a bunch of things to work on. I couldn't really pinpoint it to one thing. It doesn't boil down to one thing.\"
\r\n
\r\nHis winning attitude isn't the only trait he brings to the organization. The other, his versatility, is almost as valuable.
\r\n
\r\n\"I want to get better at all of them,\" he said of playing second base, shortstop, third base, and the outfield. \"I feel comfortable wherever they put me. I'm always trying to have fun out there and do my job. That goes into the things that I have to work on this offseason, working on all of those positions.\"
\r\n
\r\nHis grittiness and determination, while mostly innate, have also been harbored over the years by his insatiable desire to defy the odds of being a later-round pick to reach the big leagues and prove his doubters wrong.
\r\n
\r\n\"I guess you could say that to a certain extent,\" he added, \"but there's always going to be doubters wherever you're at. That's definitely one of my main goals, to prove people wrong.
\r\n
\r\n\"All of my life people have said ‘you're not this or you're not that'. I like to show them my abilities, show them what I can do, and it feels good to come from a 20th round guy who wasn't high up to prove myself a little bit.\"
\r\n
\r\nWhile he isn't blessed with the greatest set of tools, playing with that proverbial chip on his shoulder makes him a different type of player in Pinstripes.
\r\n
\r\n\"I'm not going to be a guy that's going to [overwhelm you] if you see me just one day,\" he admitted. \"I'm the kind of guy that goes out there to do my job and I do a lot of little things right. I can bring versatility as well as offense.\"
\r\n
\r\nAnd with finishing as strong as he did - hitting .380 with four home runs and 17 walks in the month of August - Russo is peaking at the right time. However, he still feels that he hasn't shown his best game yet.
\r\n
\r\n\"I can definitely be better than that,\" he opined. \"There's always room for improvement in every aspect. I want to be better each season. That's something I want to do and I know that's something I'm capable of doing.\"
\r\n
\r\n\r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n \r\n
\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 2009\r\n Scranton\r\n .326\r\n 353\r\n 18\r\n 5\r\n 31\r\n 51\r\n 13\r\n 42\r\n 55\r\n .397\r\n .431
\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 has proven to be an exceptional contact hitter over his career, striking out just 181 times in 1,155 career at-bats, and that makes him one of the better situational hitters in the organization. He has always shown above average plate discipline and now he is also starting to show an ability to draw a good number of walks. He doesn't have very much power, having the potential to possibly reach double-digit home run totals if given a full-time job someday, but his ability to hit in the clutch, lay down bunts, and excel in hit-and-run situations and move runners overshadow his lack of plus power.
\r\n
\r\nBase Running and Speed. Russo is more aggressive on the base paths than having great speed. An average runner overall, he makes up for it with incredible hustle and baseball smarts. He reads pitchers moves well, knows when he can take the extra base, and his head is always in the running game. He can help his team running the bases even though he doesn't project to be a big base stealer.
\r\n
\r\nDefense. Just like in every aspect of his game, Russo is solid on the defensive side of the ball. He has a decent arm, solid range, and good hands. He's not an elite defender physically, but he can play second base and third base well, and he even play the outfield and shortstop if called upon. His overall intelligence puts him in good position to make plays.
\r\n
\r\nProjection. On a smaller market team Russo has the overall game to someday potentially project as a starting second baseman, his natural defensive position. But with a large market team like the Yankees, he provides an excellent backup to second baseman Robinson Cano and is better served filling a utility role and bench player with his offensive situational hitting and defensive versatility. Think Mark De Rosa, who has a similar build, for a comparison, although Russo has a little more speed and is more of a natural second baseman than shortstop.
\r\n
\r\nETA. 2010. With nothing else to prove at the minor league level and now a member of the 40-man roster, Russo is ready to contribute at the big league level. He'll have to fight the likes of Ramiro Pena for the utility role, but even if he starts in Triple-A Scranton next year he'll be just one phone call away from helping out.
\r\n
\r\n

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

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\r\n

\r\n

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