The Chicago Cubs have arguably the best collection of young talent in baseball. High-profile prospects Jorge Soler, Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara all made their big league debuts with the Cubs last season, and expect to be major contributors on a Cubs team that appears ready to compete this season.
Slugger Kris Bryant is considered by most to be the top prospect in all of baseball, and should make his big league debut early in the 2015 season. Whether he opens the year in Chicago or not (probably not), Bryant is expected to give the Cubs a big boost early in the year.
Shortstop Addison Russell is another talented Cubs’ prospect who could give the team a major boost if needed in 2015.
Russell is ranked just below Bryant by most prospect services, but the 21-year-old shortstop is an incredible player in his own right. He was acquired by the Cubs in a mid-season trade with the Oakland Athletics last year, and expects to be a major part of the organization going forward.
Russell spent most of last season at the Double-A level with both the Athletics and Cubs. He hit .302/.355/.529 with Tennessee last year and expects to start this season at the Triple-A level.
Russell has a sweet swing and great discipline at the plate. While he does not possess great speed, he is above average in that department, and certainly has the athleticism to handle shortstop at the big league level.
He is not a huge power hitter (13 home runs and 14 doubles in 258 at-bats last season), but he projects to add more power as his body develops. It is conceivable for Russell to hit .290 with a .340 on-base percentage with around 20 home runs and 15 steals at the big league level. That would be incredible production out of the shortstop position.
While Russell could be a major league shortstop, the Cubs may not need him to be one. Three-time All-Star Starlin Castro currently holds down the position for the Cubs, and is unlikely to give it up unless he is traded. Russell may have more value as a shortstop, but he would be an elite defender if moved to third base.
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If the Cubs are contending around the mid-season point, and would like to add a bat to their line-up, Russell could be a very dangerous option. He is a very advanced hitter for his age, and would likely be at least an average contributor right away, with massive upside.
If the Chicago were to bring up Russell, he could play third base, and Kris Bryant would likely switch to left field. With such a move, the team would have a ton of youth and inexperience in the lineup, but the Cubs would also have very dangerous collection of hitters. Just imagine an infield of Russell, Castro, Baez and Anthony Rizzo. NL Central competitors would certainly take notice.
Despite the offseason additions of manager Joe Maddon, ace pitcher Jon Lester, outfielder Dexter Fowler and many others, this competing for a playoff spot may be a bit premature. Regardless of anything, the Cubs will be relying on a ton of young players to contribute this season – and a lot of unknown comes with that.
However, if they do have a hot start, the Cubs can add a potential impact bat in Russell without giving up anything in a trade. Very few teams can say that.
This team has every intention of being completive this season. Assuming he continues to impress at Triple-A, Russell could be an important player for the Cubs coming down the stretch.