Addison Russell has continued to impress with the glove, but not with the bat in 2018. What should the Chicago Cubs do if he continues to struggle at the plate?
A former top prospect, Addison Russell seemed ready to take the next step as recently as 2016. He drove in a career-best 95 runs, becoming the first Chicago Cubs shortstop to do so not named Ernie Banks. The slick-fielding shortstop earned his first All-Star selection and helped the Cubs win a championship.
But, instead of building on that momentum, Russell went in the wrong direction in 2017.
Russell hit just .239, with 12 home runs on the year. He drove in just 47 – less than half as many as the year prior. That may not seem too bad for a hitter who batted eighth for the majority of the year. But if you compare those numbers to those of 2016 they seem to have come from two different players.
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His OPS+ fell a full 10 points from year to year – from 94 to 84. In other words, he ranked 15 percent below league average when it came to his offensive contributions. Hardly what fans had hoped for following his breakout 2016 season.
2018 hasn’t been much better
So far this season, Russell continues to underproduce. He hit just two home runs to-date and has driven in 14. However, he is hitting a respectable .268 – well above his career .243 mark.
The last week or so has been particularly rough for the young infielder. Over the last seven days, his .481 OPS leaves plenty to be desired. Still, he’s been a wizard defensively, making several highlight reel-worthy plays at short.
He’s also been significantly better against southpaws than right-handers. He carries a .919 OPS against lefties. Meanwhile, against right-handers, that plummets to .637. Needless to say, a platoon situation isn’t out of the question with splits like these.
What do the Cubs do?
Well, one option is to try and trade him. You would get a nice return for a young All-Star shortstop with multiple years of control left. However, I don’t see the Cubs doing that – at least not at this point.
Right now, the Cubs don’t appear to have glaring holes that need to be filled via of acquiring a “big name” player before the trade deadline. If they were to trade Russell, they would demand high-quality players in return. Theo doesn’t sell low. That much is clear.
Thinking big picture with Addison
In a way, Russell’s struggles remind me of those experienced by Jason Heyward. A player with a struggling bat, but he still brings Gold Glove-caliber defense to the ballpark every day.
At the moment, Russell is in the lineup mainly for his glove, and anything he provides with the bat is a bonus. However, everybody knows the offense is in him somewhere. It seems like it’s a mental thing, more or less.
All he needs is a long streak of quality at-bats to help him regain his confidence. Once that happens he might be able to come close to the player he was back in 2016.