When Addison Russell initially returned, there were doubts that the Chicago Cubs needed him. But with others struggling and Russell getting hot he is making a strong case to see a lot of time at second base.
Russell has really turned things around at the plate recently, most notably over the course of the last five games he’s started for the Cubs. Over that time, Russell is hitting .470 at the plate with two three-hit games, while getting on base at a clip of .550.
The biggest difference in Russell’s game of late has been the return of his power. In his 18 games so far this season, the shortstop has launched four long balls, three of which of come in his last four games alone. With one more home run this season, Russell will tie his 2018 season total of five, which took him 130 games to reach.
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While it’s a very small sample size, of course, Russell is making hard contact 39.5 percent of the time, which is the hardest he’s hit the ball throughout his career. He’s making better contact and hitting the ball harder, reminiscent to when he hit a career-high 21 home runs in 2016.
His strong performance of late has helped to boost his slash line. He’s now hitting a respectable .298/.365/.574. Again, Russell is on a very small sample size at the moment, but those are all career-highs for the shortstop who has never had a batting average higher than .250 in his five-year career.
That’s a vast improvement from where Russell started this season, where he had a rough go of it. In his first 10 games back following his 40-game suspension, Russell had recorded just six hits in 24 at-bats. He was hitting just .250 at the plate and at times he looked lost or simply over-matched in the batter’s box.
Russell makes sense at second base
Looking at this strictly from a baseball point of view, the Cubs have a current need for Russell. Right now, there is a hole at second base and like it or not, Russell fills that void.
Ben Zobrist has been on a personal leave of absence, and there is a chance that he may not be walking through that door again. After a hot start to the season, Daniel Descalso has hit a wall and looks lost at the plate. David Bote can fill in at second base, but he will see most of his time at third base.
With that said, Russell should continue to see the most time at second base while Javier Baez remains the starting shortstop. Russell is by far the team’s best defensive option at second base anyway and if he continues to perform the way he is at the plate it becomes a relatively easy decision.