Chicago Cubs: Now is not the time to panic about Addison Russell
Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon announced Addison Russell will miss the entire NLCS; where will the team turn in this upcoming pivotal series?
Anyone who watched Game Four of the Division Series probably isn’t too worried about losing Russell for the League Championship round, which kicks off with Game One Saturday.
For those of you who missed it, seemingly forgotten Cubs prospect Javier Baez stepped up in a big way early-on, taking Cardinals starter John Lackey deep for a go-ahead, three-run home run that capped a four-run bottom of the second.
After making a pair of defensive miscues the night prior after replacing Russell at short, Baez, who was one of the most coveted prospects in all of baseball as early as lats season, looked much more relaxed and at-ease – lending peace of mind to Chicago Cubs fans everywhere.
Don’t you remember it?
Last season, Baez debuted to tremendous fanfare, announcing his arrival to the big leagues by clubbing three homers in his first three games before falling victim to countless strikeouts and an overextended swing that opposing pitchers exploited on a daily basis.
The middle infielder ended the 2014 season with a staggering 95 strikeouts in 52 contests to go along with a disappointing .169/.227/.324 slash-line. His light-tower power was evident, as he hit nine homers along the way, but his poor plate discipline led to his opening the 2015 campaign with Triple-A Iowa.
Now, I touched on Baez in my piece highlighting some of the best performances in the NLDS, and if you check it out, his value was apparent:
"The infielder batted .324/.385/.527 with Iowa in 70 ballgames, doing enough to earn a September call-up to the Windy City. In the season’s final month, he showed a much more compact stroke at the plate, batting .289 with a .325 OBP – and while his power waned, the strikeouts were drastically reduced, as well."
Now, given the abundance of power in the Cubs’ lineup, I have no issue whatsoever with Baez shortening his stroke at the plate, focusing more on contact and line-drives as opposed to awe-inspiring blasts.
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Defensively, Baez played three infield positions this season for Chicago: second, third and shortstop. Surprisingly enough, he appeared in the fewest games at short, where he’ll play in the NLCS, despite it being his natural position.
He’s widely known as a smooth-handed fielder, so I, personally, am not all that worried about his two gaffes in the NLDS. He’s shown the ability to adapt this season, overcoming tremendous adversity – so despite what many think, I expect Baez to step up in a big way against either New York or Los Angeles.
Don’t get me wrong: the Chicago Cubs losing Addison Russell shouldn’t be overlooked. But, despite what many in the national media may tell you, it’s not the end of the world.