Chicago Cubs: At this point, Addison Russell is what he is – nothing more

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

It’s time the Chicago Cubs quit expecting Addison Russell to turn into some superstar-caliber player and accept that this is who he is as a player.

I’ve beaten this narrative into the ground. Will Addison Russell turn a long-awaited corner? Can he be an elite player? Etc. Etc. But, after another slow start from the Chicago Cubs infielder, it’s time the front office – and fans, myself included – move on from what might have been.

Let me preface all of this with a very clear statement. Russell has all the tools to be an elite defender. With his shoulder injury behind him, he best defensive days may very well be ahead of him. That’s not the issue here.

Well, there is one thing. Personally, given Russell’s arm inconsistency, a flip-flop of Russell and Javier Baez at second and short could work well for Joe Maddon’s Cubs. But with Baez making big strides lately at the plate, it stands to reason they’ll mess with his routine as little as humanly possible for the time being.

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Russell, meanwhile, went 1-for-4 in the team’s win over St. Louis on Thursday afternoon, raising his average to .222 on the season. And that tells you what you need to know as far as how well he’s swung the bat in 2018.

Early season woes for Addison

The former All-Star’s last multi-hit effort came back on April 5. He hasn’t driven in a run since the following day. Now, I’d be willing to say this is largely similar to what we’ve seen from this offense, as a whole, but this low average aspect of Russell’s game is hardly new.

Now, despite me telling myself it’s time to move on from what he could someday be – I see glimmers of hope. I’m not sure if they’re enough to change my mind and buy into this fantasy again, but they’re enough to keep me intrigued at the very least.

Over his career (1,566 PA), Russell carries a .313 OBP. That means he’s a slightly below average offensive player. At least, by that measure. A large portion of that is his pretty subpar batting average, but for this argument, let’s say OBP is a better way to evaluate offensive value.

In 2016, his career year with a bat, Russell posted a .321 on-base percentage. Of course, no one really cared. He flashed the leather on a daily basis. Oh, and he became the first Cubs shortstop not named Ernie Banks to drive in 95 runs. Pretty decent company to be mentioned with, if you ask me.

Could a higher walk rate mean more success?

This season, Russell has drawn nine walks in 15 games. Last year, in 110 contests, he drew only 25. This is a very interesting development. Year over year, he’s doubled his walk rate from 7.5 percent to 15.0 percent. Now, there’s very little reason to think this is a long-lasting change, but if he could even push that number to a season-long 10 percent, his value goes into the green.

Right now, Addison Russell has proven this. He is an above-average defender, capable of being one of the best shortstops in the game. With the bat, he’s a below-average player who shows flashes of promise – but doesn’t get on base enough and whose power is sporadic.

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So when we’re looking at the puzzle that is the Cubs long-term, this is what we need to expect. Thinking he’ll ever be a .270 hitter with 20 homers and 85 RBI is unrealistic – and, at this point, nothing more than hopeful wishing.