At the start of the season, the two big name prospects playing for the AA Tennessee Smokies on the positional side were Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler. Each has since moved on to AAA Iowa, but there are still two big name prospects playing for the Smokies on the positional side – each of whom wasn’t there when the season started. That’d be shortstop Addison Russell, and center fielder Albert Almora.
And each reminded us last night why they are worth following every bit as closely as the guys who left Tennessee.
First, there’s Russell, once again displaying his impressive pull-side power with a deep homer (hopefully the full video will soon be available, and I’ll share it when it is):
Addison Russell crushed one last night for the Smokies. https://t.co/VuRO4mgYau
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) August 19, 2014
The homer was Russell’s first in a couple weeks, but his line at Tennessee remains a robust .297/.346/.534. To put that in context: Russell’s .880 OPS would be 5th best in the Southern League if he had enough at bats to qualify. All four players ahead of Russell are two to four years older than he is, and none plays shortstop. Russell isn’t just the best prospect in the Southern League (because of projection), he’s also already clearly the best player in the Southern League.
Which is not to sleep on fellow 20-year-old Albert Almora, who isn’t quite putting up the offensive numbers that Russell is, but keeps playing special defense in center field.
Example from last night:
The concentration and skill involved in that catch are crazy, but that’s par for the course for Almora in center. Each time I watch him, I can see why folks have said for a year now that he’s already capable of playing exceptional defense at the big league level.
The bat, however, is where Almora needs time. He’s hitting .236/.261/.337 at Tennessee after his midseason promotion from High-A Daytona (his stats there aren’t too impressive either, but he’d really heated up before his promotion). If you’re looking for a bright spot, it’s that he appears to be heating up a bit in his last seven games, going 10-26 with a couple doubles and a triple (and just four strikeouts).