Chicago Cubs Addison Russell is maturing before our eyes


Addison Russell, who homered twice on Friday, has turned his season around, quickly becoming one of the Chicago Cubs’ most valuable assets.

It’s so easy to look past what Russell has done for Chicago this season; especially when he’s put side-by-side with the likes of Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, who have been an a whole new level when it comes to rookie production this season.

Bryant, who could very well push 100 RBI in his first big league season (despite missing the first two weeks before he was called up from Iowa), has to be considered a front-runner for the National League Rookie of the Year.

Schwarber, meanwhile, has led the Cubs in multiple offensive categories since Aug. 1 – and should be back in the swing of things by the time Chicago does battle with St. Louis early next week, injury permitting.

But, for me, the most impressive work turned in by a Cubs rookie has come from Russell, a former consensus top prospect who came to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija deal last summer.

The first half wasn’t pretty at the dish for the 21-year-old. He batted just .226, barely keeping his OBP above .300. It’s not that his numbers are that much better in the second half, but rather that he’s driving the ball with authority that’s made all the difference.

Russell slugged just .354 in the first half; that compares with a .438 clip post-Midsummer Classic. In 43 second-half games, the Cubs’ middle infielder has delivered seven long-balls to go along with 21 runs batted in – which isn’t bad given it took him over 70 first-half games to get five homers and drive in 22 runs.

That’s not to say there isn’t room for Russell to improve. Quite the contrary.

Russell, who was already a stellar defender, has started to showcase his bat – which has added another dimension to the Chicago Cubs’ lineup.

And that’s exactly why he’s such a valuable talent.

It’s easy to talk about Bryant and Schwarber. They do what casual baseball fans love – crush mammoth home runs. Russell doesn’t do that with such regularity; instead, he does the little things.

He closes holes in the infield on defense, makes difficult double-play turns look routine and does his job at the dish – often coming through in the clutch, especially of-late.

With two outs and runners in scoring position this season, Russell is batting .283/.345/.434 – with an OPS pushing .800 – which isn’t quite in Bryant’s 1.100 territory – but still compares nicely with Schwarber’s .927 clip.

Looking at his numbers overall, you may not be inclined to think Russell has done all that much. Sure, he’s just shy of being a 2.0-WAR player (which Schwarber has been in roughly half as many games) – but if he can keep trending upwards, he may very well be the key to the Cubs’ postseason hopes.

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