Joe Maddon might believe that Addison Russell is a future Gold Glover, but is he also destined to continue batting ninth in 2016?
Being early Spring, it’s no surprise to learn that the Cubs manager has started to consider his everyday lineup, including, as it turns out, whether or not Russell should stay in the 9-hole.
And he’s not planning on doing it alone.
Speaking with Cubs.com, Maddon said “I need to get together with our [stats] geeks and talk about the batting order. I really want to specifically know what they think … about Addy hitting in the nine-hole again this year. Last year, a lot of that had to do to benefit him, and I thought it worked out pretty well. I need more thoughts.”
That said, that will generally always be the case for guys near the bottom of the order, and someone’s gotta bat down there. The problem is that when you go up and down the Cubs’ lineup, it’s not easy to decide who else you can put in that spot, except perhaps on days when you’re just trying to bury a bat.
The re-signing of Dexter Fowler complicates things further, as it will push Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist down the lineup, and could reduce “middle-of-the-order” opportunities for Russell.
Regardless of where he hits, Russell has been working to improve upon his debut season in 2015 – which, to be honest, was perfectly fine for a 21-year-old Gold Glove-caliber shortstop – and the early results sound promising, per the Tribune.
Russell spent the first half of the offseason rehabbing and strengthening his hamstring at the Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center in Alabama, before moving to the batting cages to work with Cubs hitting coach John Mallee.
The focus of their work was to fine tune a leg kick, before the start of the season. If you recall, this very leg kick calibration is what made Russell’s second half offensive performance (.320 wOBA, 101 wRC+) much better than the first half (.288 wOBA, 79 wRC+).
It’s difficult for fans to remember, but Addison Russell is still has quite the offensive potential. He might never slug like Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber, but he has a good chance of hitting for higher average, while maintaining plenty of power. At just barely 22 years old, Russell is two+ years younger than Kris Bryant (and played in MLB at the age that Bryant was drafted).
There’s a bright future ahead for Mr. Russell, no matter where he hits in the lineup.
Brett Taylor and Michael Cerami co-wrote this post.