After driving in 95 runs last season, Addison Russell hasn’t played up to the hype with the Chicago Cubs in 2017. But, fear not, he’s young and there’s still plenty of time left for him.
When the Chicago Cubs traded for Addison Russell from the Oakland Athletics, nearly everyone saw it as a steal. Russell was a consensus top prospect who many expected to enjoy a terrific career.
Three years into his big-league career and he’s already accomplished what many never do. He’s started an All-Star Game and won a World Series championship. But there are still many who remain frustrated, believing Russell to have more untapped talent.
His career slash line is .238/.311/.400. This season he’s at .228/.297/.387, all below league averages. ZiPS projects him for 15 homers and 66 RBI at season’s end. Not bad for a middle infielder, but below what he accomplished last season.
On the surface, it looks like Russell is showing that he’s not going to become the high average hit machine many projected. Let’s cool the jets on that for a second. Remember, he’s only 23 years old.
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While Russell is certainly struggling with making contact, the numbers say he’s been unlucky. He’s making better contact than ever – yet still possesses subpar averages. His BABIP the last two years has also been below league average, meaning his batted balls are frequently outs.
What all this means is he’s making good contact and not being rewarded for it. It’s really only a matter of time before the numbers start creeping back up.
Russell’s strikeout totals, however, are not the product of luck. That career 24.9 percent K rate is on him. It’s very difficult to be a high average hitter with those numbers, but the good news is the more the young Russell plays the better adjusted he’ll be.
Russell showing his age this season
Of course, Russell doesn’t have to have a high average in order to be successful. The power he packs gives him a 15-20 homer floor with an as high as 30 homer ceiling. That’s fine and dandy, but not enough for a player of Russell’s potential. There’s room in there for a combination of power and average somewhere.
Russell is still very young in his MLB career. He won’t be 24 until after the season’s over, and he’ll already have four seasons under his belt before he’s legally allowed to rent a car. Expectations for an über prospect are always high. Not everyone’s Mike Trout and become an MVP right out of the gate.
Give Russell time. By the time he hits his prime he could be a completely different hitter. And he won’t even be in his prime for a while. The Cubs can afford to have the young shortstop work through the struggles nearly every young player goes through. Since, you know, they’re stacked and all.
Russell could very well become an MVP-type player down the road. Let’s give him time to reach the full potential of his game.