Chicago Cubs News

Chicago Cubs’ Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber draw high praise

Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell (27) celebrates after hitting a grand slam against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning in game six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 1, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell (27) celebrates after hitting a grand slam against the Cleveland Indians in the third inning in game six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports /
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Fox Sports recently released a list of top 20 breakout candidates for the upcoming season; two Chicago Cubs players can be found in the top five.

The deal that sent Addison Russell to the Chicago Cubs in 2014 was considered a steal by many in the baseball world. Russell has not disappointed during his time with the Cubs, either. He’s improved offensively each year, all while being a vacuum defensively.

In his rookie year, Russell posted a .242/.307/.389 slash line, with a .696 OPS, 13 homers and 54 RBI. Last season, his OPS climbed to .738 – as he clubbed 21 home runs, driving in 95 runs batted in.

Furthermore, he hit arguably the biggest home run of the Cubs’ season with a grand slam in Game Six of the World Series.  In 2015, he had a 28.5 percent strikeout rate, which he cut down to 22.6 percent last year. His walk rate also climbed to 9.2 percent in 2016, up from eight percent the year prior. Russell’s patience and discipline is clearly on the rise.

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That is a key for young players: whether they can develop and continually address their weaknesses. Always known as a plus-defender, Russell actually improved in that regard as well last season. In 2015,  Russell posted 10 DRS, as opposed to 19 DRS in 2016.

Schwarber a legitimate power threat

The Chicago Cubs’ front office drafted Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft, much to the surprise of many.

He has not disappointed so far, when he is on the field, that is.  Schwarber served as the team’s designated hitter during a week of inter league games as his first taste of big league action in 2015.

During that stretch, he posted a robust .364/.391/.591 line. His slugging percentage for the year ranked nearly 100 points lower for the year, ending at .487. That clip includes a very subpar September, in which he slashed .206/.351/.413.

Schwarber missed the entire 2016 season after blowing out his knee in an outfield collision in early April. However, Schwarber made an improbable return in the World Series, coming back with a vengeance.

During the seven-game series with the Indians, Schwarber hit .412/.500/.471.  Small sample size, yes, but keep in mind he hadn’t swung a bat in a live-action scenario since April.  He came back and it looked like he hadn’t missed a beat, not to mention, sparking the tenth-inning rally in Game 7 with a leadoff single in the tenth inning.

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One could argue Russell has already broken out, following a 95-RBI campaign. On the other hand, one could argue that he has yet to reach his potential, which is quite a scary thought.  Schwarber may have broken out already had he not missed the entire last season.

If the World Series showed anything, it’s that these two are already very dangerous.

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