Grading the young Russell on his performance thus far
Looking back on Theo Epstein’s time with the Chicago Cubs, a multitude of trades are at our disposal to dissect. ESPNChicago.com’s Cubs reporter, Jesse Rogers tweeted the following thought during Wednesday night’s game. It got me thinking, does theAddison Russell
trade really have the potential to be the best deal Theo has ever and will ever make as the President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs?
You have Anthony Rizzo for Andrew Cashner — that was a spectacular deal for Chicago, no doubt. As talented as Cashner is, he still can’t stay healthy and Theo and company already had a past relationship with Rizzo in both Boston and San Diego. Scott Feldman for Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop looks pretty darn fantastic considering the Baltimore Orioles only had Feldman for half a season. Arrieta is now in the Cy Young discussion and Strop has become an electric set-up man for the Cubbies.
Looking at the Addison Russell trade shows just how lopsided it was for the Cubs in retrospect. Heralded as Oakland’s top prospect in 2014 and considered to be their shortstop of the future, Epstein was able to acquire him on last year’s 4th of July along with Dan Straily (since traded to Houston in a package for Dexter Fowler) and Billy McKinney (Cubs’ #6 prospect according to Baseball America).
The Cubs only gave up Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. I say “only” because Oakland was knocked out in the Wild Card game and Samardzija never pitched an inning in the playoffs. Hammel struggled mightily with the A’s, and has since re-signed with the Cubs. Oakland has nothing to show for losing their top prospect who is now the starting second baseman for the Cubs.
Let’s take a deeper look at how Russell has done so far in his short MLB career.
Speed has never been the calling card for Russell’s immense talent as MLB.com gave him an average rating of 50 in their Top 100 Prospects scouting report. In his short time with the Cubs, he has no stolen bases and has been caught stealing once. However, his baserunning has been very good and he shows solid instincts when running base to base. Russell has seemed to embrace Joe Maddon‘s “Respect 90” mantra and that shows great maturity for the National League’s youngest player.
Grade – C
Hitting For Average:
Russell had some issues during his first few MLB games with hitting the ball. Strikeouts piled up quickly for the prospect touted as a good contact swinger. He has flourished in his last seven days and boosted his average up to .260. In the last week, Russell is hitting an impressive .364. Going into Thursday’s game, he was sporting a 9-game hitting streak. That average is sure to continue to rise well into the summer.
Grade – B
Few middle infielders have the offensive upside Russell possesses. In just 13 games, he has already shown some impressive pop. His two home runs have carried him to a very solid .500 slugging percentage. At his peak, he should flirt with 20+ home runs in a full MLB season. In a fraction of the games, he’s already tied with Bryant and Rizzo for the most doubles on the team with six.
Grade – A
All grades pertaining to Russell on MLB.com regarding his fielding are presented with the assumption he would be a shortstop in the MLB. His 55 arm rating was good for slightly above average, but second base is not a position requiring a cannon for an arm. He has had no shortage of opportunities with 27 assists and 20 putouts to his credit.
Grade – C+
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The glove has never been as hyped as the bat in Russell’s time as a top prospect. While he enjoyed ratings in the 60s for hitting categories, his fielding was merely a 55. He has the athleticism to get by being a solid fielder with enough versatility to play either second or shortstop for the Cubs going forward, whatever they decide. He already has a few highlight-reel plays to his credit and is creating a good repertoire with Starlin Castro as Chicago’s double-play combination.
Grade – B
Much like Bryant before him, Russell instantly showcased the talent that made them top prospects in the first place. Not being counted on as saviors on a vastly improved Cubs team, they both have been given extended leashes to find their games and become the potential All-Stars many believe them to be. Both of them have shown more than enough to confirm the initial hype while leaving plenty of room for improvement. They’ll be A+ players within a few seasons.
Grade – B