FanGraphs had two pieces on Cubs prospects yesterday, some of which I’m going to want to discuss in depth in the coming days, but you should read them in the interim. There’s this really, really, really deep dive by Kiley McDaniel on his list of the top Cubs prospects, and then there’s Carson Cistulli looking at the top projected WAR for Cubs prospects in the bigs next year.
We talked about the latter topic a little bit when the Steamer projections first came out, noting that it really liked Jorge Soler, and absolutely adored Kris Bryant. In his piece, Cistulli notes that there’s another Cubs prospect who fares relatively well: Addison Russell. That’s right, the 20-year-old shortstop who’s played just 76 games above High-A projects out at a 1.9 WAR in the big leagues next year.
Two things to note on that:
(1) Russell may not actually wind up playing in the bigs next year, or might play only a small stretch. This projection is imagining that he did play there most of a season with average shortstop defense; and
(2) The component numbers don’t look that impressive: .240/.295/.370 with a 91 wRC+. Because he’s at shortstop, however, and that’s just about a league average line for a shortstop, he projects out at just about a league average WAR. Not too shabby given his age and current level. His upside from there, obviously, is much higher.
Even at that projection, though, it isn’t necessarily the right approach to immediately insert Russell at the big league level. First of all, there’s the matter of there not being a clear spot for him right now, and you’d rather be able to leave him at shortstop as long as possible before having to shake things up. Second of all, even if a guy projects as an average big league player right now, that doesn’t mean there isn’t still move value to be gained by developing him another year (or more or less) in the minor leagues. The expectation remains that Russell will start the 2015 season as the starting shortstop at AAA Iowa. From there, he could come up midseason if there’s a need or an opening, but it’ll depend heavily on the roster and on his own development.
In the end, the key takeaway here is fairly small: hey, cool. That’s about it. It’s neat to know that Russell already projects as an average big leaguer (when he’d play the season at just 21), and there’s so much upside to dream on.
You see this kind of thing, and you instantly want the Cubs to figure out a way to get all of Castro/Baez/Russell/Bryant/Alcantara into the regular lineup for the long-term, and just spend money on pitching.
Which, well, that appears to be their tack. So … good.