When I wrote yesterday that Addison Russell was probably coming up to the big league team “soon,” I’m not sure even I expected it to be this soon. Then again, as I wrote, if the front office feels like he’s ready – developmentally, and in his ability to contribute – there’s really no reason to wait. The Chicago Cubs are playing meaningful games right now, and every little bit counts. Waiting for Russell to achieve some plate appearance limit at AAA or to be clear of the Super Two arbitration cut-off in June is simply not something that the Cubs should be worried about right now. The extra year of control is secured – just as it was with Kris Bryant – so the only consideration, again, is Russell’s readiness. The Cubs feel he’s ready at the plate and at his new position, second base, to seriously contribute. So away we go.
Russell will be in Pittsburgh tonight, playing second base. Giggity.
- As was the case with Bryant – and maybe even moreso now that Bryant has put together some impressive games – I want to caution that even super-prospects like Russell and Bryant will go through ups and downs. Expecting Russell to come in and immediately be one of the best bats in the lineup and play mistake-free defense at second is simply too much. Instead, if he continues to develop and posts league-average numbers in the meantime, he’s going to help this team win. That’s plenty.
- OK, cautions and caveats over. It’s time to be excited about an infield that reads Bryant-Castro-Russell-Rizzo from left to right (with Jorge Soler lurking behind Rizzo in case of errant pick-off throws). Holy smokes. Throw in the rest of the Cubs’ roster, and the present looks very bright, to say nothing of the future.
- Russell will be the youngest player in the National League, by the way, having just turned 21 in January. Bryce Harper is next, at 22 (23 in October – yes, Russell is that young). (h/t to Carrie Muskat and Matt Trueblood on that tidbit)
- Transactionally-speaking, the Cubs will likely send Arismendy Alcantara back to AAA Iowa to get regular starts – he may pair back up with Javier Baez in the middle infield, as each work primarily on their offensive issues – which will open up a 25-man spot for Russell. As for a 40-man spot, that could come in a variety of ways, including a marginal player being DFA’d or someone like Dallas Beeler or Mike Olt going on the 60-day DL. Beeler has thrown in game action in Arizona, I believe, but even if he’s close to returning to Iowa, technically he could be on the 60-day DL and “return to Iowa” as part of a rehab assignment. If that sounds too easy, there is a catch: while on the 60-day DL, Beeler would accrue big league service time. Since I’m not sure that’s a consideration, that might be the move.
- As for Russell, himself, the 21-year-old was surprised and excited to get the call-up (Des Moines Register), and his summary quote to MiLB.com is just perfect: “I never expected to feel like this. It is a dream come true, but the hard work doesn’t stop here, it only gets harder. I’m going to continue my strong work ethic and perfect my craft and help the Cubs win a lot of games.”
- Tommy Birch writes about Russell’s readiness for the big leagues, and it sounds like those in Des Moines feel like Russell is very close to ready, but the big league team’s needs trumped the ideal timeline for Russell a little bit. I think that sounds about right – I don’t think the organization would risk derailing Russell’s development for short-term needs, but I do think they might step on the gas a little bit if they felt like he was just about ready enough, and the need was clear. He is, and it is. The Cubs want to win now, and Russell can help them do that.
- Baseball Prospectus’s take on the call-up, as well as Baseball America’s take. And here’s MLB Pipeline’s take.
From the Twitters:
#Cubs Addison Russell is 2 years younger than Kris Bryant, is a quality up-the-middle glove, and still boasts 60/60 offensive upside.
— Nick J. Faleris (@NickJFaleris) April 21, 2015
For Addison Russell day… Here's a spray chart of all his MiLB hits since 2013. pic.twitter.com/nfy4LHIz4Q
— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 21, 2015
Addison Russell could get his first major league homer before Kris Bryant. I wonder what the pre-season odds on that happening were.
— Luke Blaize (@ltblaize) April 21, 2015
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) April 21, 2015
And some great parting shots of Russell from Iowa, courtesy of Dylan Heuer (including the shot that adorns the top of this post):