When Spring Training 2014 kicked off, top Oakland A’s prospect Addison Russell was starting his second big league camp, despite being only 20 years old. Although it was regarded as unlikely, there was a chance that the polished and advanced shortstop could actually make the A’s early in the season. Indeed, by the time Spring Training was in full swing, Russell was getting hyped as a “when” guy for 2014, not “if.”
Russell didn’t make the A’s out of Spring Training (during which he injured his hamstring mildly), and then tore his hamstring in early April at AA. That changed the trajectory of his 2014 season, and he was ultimately dealt to the Cubs shortly after returning from that injury. Making the big leagues in 2014 was no longer a possibility.
But that sets the stage for 2015, doesn’t it? A guy with Russell’s pedigree, who hit .295/.350/.508 in 2014 in 68 games, mostly at AA, and who did it all as a 20-year-old shortstop, is going to get serious consideration for the big leagues in 2015. He’ll soon head to the Arizona Fall League for the second time to make up for lost at bats, and then he’ll almost certainly break 2015 with the AAA Iowa Cubs. Considering how close he was to the bigs in 2014, however, and where he starts 2015 … if the development show, and the need arises at the big league level, I don’t think predicting a mid-season 2015 debut for Russell is at all outlandish.
That timeline would look similar, by the way, to Javier Baez, who played a second half at Tennessee when he was 20, entered his age 21 season at AAA, and came up to the Cubs after the Trade Deadline.
For his part, Russell arrived at Wrigley Field yesterday as a fan – the Cubs previously brought in other top prospects for a visit, including Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber – which is pretty cool. You can read about his visit here, here, here, and here, among other places.
Included in his comments: (1) Russell will play wherever the Cubs need him, and he thinks he could handle any position; (2) once the trade set in, he was excited to be a part of something special with the Cubs; and (3) Russell found out he was traded via a welcome text from Albert Almora.
Russell is believed by most to be the best all-around shortstop of the Cubs’ many shortstop options, but, absent an injury or trade involving Starlin Castro, a 2015 arrival might be in a position other than shortstop. If everyone is still on the team, and if Kris Bryant has arrived in the bigs by then, too, it’ll be really interesting to see how the Cubs sort everyone out. The best alignment might be Russell at short, Castro at third, Baez at second, and Bryant in left or right (with Jorge Soler in the other spot). The actual alignment, however, would probably see Castro staying at short.
But, you know, it’s really not worth working too hard to figure out right now. There’s an entire offseason to go, and then an entire first half of a season before it plausibly becomes a question. And things can, and will, happen between now and then. All that matters now: Russell is a stud, could soon be on the doorstep of the bigs, and the Cubs might have to sort out some positional issues.
Here’s hoping that’s a problem that arises mid-season in 2015.