Chicago Cubs: Addison Russell making strides early this season

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs’ season-opening series in Miami can be safely chalked up as a disappointment. But one of the positives? A resurgent Addison Russell.

After a breakout 2016 performance, hopes were high for Addison Russell and the Chicago Cubs this time last year. The season, as we know now, played out in a very different fashion for the young infielder. But, at least for the first four games of 2018, there seems to be a fire lit beneath him.

Of course it’s a small sample size, but Russell slashed .357/.526/.500 in the four game series against the Miami Marlins. However, it is a good sign considering what his expectations are coming into 2018. Even his outs were hard for the Marlins defenders to make as he posted a .385 BABIP.

Last year, like a lot of the Cubs position players, Russell struggled at the plate to start the year. He hit just .226 in the first half of the season, struggling badly in May with an average in the .160s. He also couldn’t stay healthy to save his life – causing further issues.

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Coming into the 2018 season, he’s looking to get back to his Gold Glove-caliber defense and take a step in the right direction at the plate. He’s certainly capable of being a run producer. Remember, he drove in 95 runs just two years ago. But average and on-base percentage aren’t quite there yet.

One good sign, at least so far, is his BB/K ratio, which sits at 4.00 after four games. Over the weekend, Russell walked at least once in all but one game and only fanned once in that stretch. In 2017, his strikeout percentage was 23.6 percent, slightly higher than in 2016 (22.6). His walk rate dipped almost two percent (7.5) compared to 2016 (9.2) as well.

To put things into perspective, Russell only walked six times in the month of April in 2017. At this pace, he will surpass that total this week.

Too soon to tell – still promising

It’s way to early to start saying he’s better than 2017, but he’s off to a nice start. The Cubs are hoping he can get back being part of the discussions of the best shortstops in the National League.

Defensively, he showed that the range is back after a few nice sliding defensive plays over the weekend, including a nice highlight play Sunday.

Next: Situational hitting plagues Chicago against Miami

In case you’re wondering, Russell had never faced the Reds’ Monday starting pitcher Tyler Mahle, but has a home run against left-hander Cody Reed, who is scheduled to pitch Tuesday in the series finale. He hopes to keep his early success going.