Chicago Cubs: Will we see Addison Russell debut before Javier Baez returns?

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With the roster moves Monday, the Chicago Cubs sent down some of their top prospects. Kris Bryant and Addison Russell were expected, but Javier Baez was a surprise.

We know why Bryant was sent down. 12 days in the minors gets the Cubs an extra year on Bryant’s contract. There’s no question he’€™ll be called up much sooner rather than later.

Baez and Russell will be interesting though. Baez had a chance last season and this spring training to show he belongs in the majors now, but he didn’t fully take it. Russell has been great at the minor league level and impressed at spring training.

So who will we see first on the North Side this season, Addison Russell or Javier Baez?

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The Cubs gave Baez a chance last year when they called him up, but he didn’t succeed – which isn’t all that surprising for prospects. He spent just over half a season at Triple-A last season before being called up to the big leagues and struggling.

Baez had strong power numbers in the minors with 23 home runs, but a very high amount of strikeouts with 130 in 430 at-bats. Those strikeouts translated to the majors too – where his strikeout percentage rose from 30 percent in Triple-A to 41.5 percent.

Baez’ numbers in Spring Training were worse than his number last season, leading to the Cubs optioning him to Iowa.

Russell has been a popular prospect since his arrival from the Oakland A’s last season. He began his Cubs tenure with the Tennessee Smokies and will most likely start-off at Triple-A level with the Iowa Cubs this season after an impressive spring, where he hit .324. Russell’s a sure-handed shortstop who will probably be moved to second or third base by the time he hits the big leagues.

There is an outside chance the Cubs could keep him at short, but that would mean moving Starlin Castro, which could be a tough transition for him.

The promotion of Baez last season showed that the Cubs are comfortable calling up a player without a full Triple-A season under his belt. Addison Russell could be that man this season. If he continues his great hitting from spring training, a call up is very possible.

Then again, if Baez can raise his batting average and cut down on his strikeouts, he could be called up for another chance.

I’d say the latter is more likely. Since Baez has faced the cream of the crop in the majors and has experience in Iowa, he can go back down and regain confidence in his swing. He won’€™t cut down on his strikeouts much, but that doesn’t mean he will be a bad hitter.

Russell vs. Baez is something that could turn into a nice competition throughout the season as they battle for an ever-so-valuable spot on the major league roster, and it’s something that could make both players thrive and reach their potential.

Next: Will Lester Pitch Opening Night?

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