After getting into Buster Olney’s player ratings that featured a pair of top-10 starting starters (with an honorable mention, for good measure) and a top-5 closer among the pitchers, a top-5 first baseman, and two top second basemen currently on the Cubs’ roster, it should come as no surprise when another teammate joins the list.
Enter Addison Russell on Olney’s list of top-10 shortstops.
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians
- Corey Seager, Los Angeles Dodgers
- Carlos Correa, Houston Astros
- Brandon Crawford, San Francisco GIants
- Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
- Addison Russell, Cubs
- Trea Turner, Washington Nationals
- Jean Segura, Seattle Mariners
- Troy Tulowitzki, Toronto Blue Jays
- Andrelton Simmons, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Honorable mentions: Didi Gregorious (Yankees), Alcides Escobar (Royals) Zack Cozart (Reds), Dansby Swanson (Braves), Elvis Andrus (Rangers), Adeiny Hechavarria (Marlins), Trevor Story (Rockies), Aledmys Diaz (Cardinals)
To say the shortstop position is loaded would be an understatement.
And not only is it brimming with talent, six of the top seven players will play 2017 in their age 25 season or younger. That group includes Russell, the Cubs’ shortstop who ranked sixth in fWAR in 2016 (3.9) behind Seager (7.5), Lindor (6.3), Crawford (5.8), Correa (4.9) and Bogaerts (4.7). It excludes Manny Machado, who only spent significantly more time at third base (989 innings) than he did at shortstop (380) in 2016 but is listed among the shortstops (and third basemen) on FanGraphs’ leaderboards.
You can read much more on each of the included players in Olney’s full article.
Back to Russell and his inclusion in the impressive top ten (as Brett noted last night, Russell continues to be among impressive groups in his young career). Some of Russell’s offensive numbers were strong among his peers, including the second most RBIs among shortstops (95), the third best walk rate (9.2%) and the sixth best ISO (.179), to go along with a 21-home run campaign. On the other hand, he ranked outside the top-10 at his position in batting average (20th), on-base percentage (12th), slugging percentage (16th), wOBA (14th), and wRC+ (15th).
Making up for whatever offensive shortcomings you could argue he had, however, Russell provided Gold Glove caliber defense by posting the fourth highest UZR (tied with Simmons), fourth best Defensive Runs Above Average (Def) and – along with Crawford – picked up most Defensive Runs Saved (DRS). Russell also tied with Lindor and Crawford for the highest dWAR total (2.7) among shortstops.
Russell’s defense gives him a high floor when it comes to current shortstop ratings, while his offense allows you to dream on a high ceiling.
He has been a streaky hitter at times, but Russell has shown a unique ability to make adjustments and thrive. Russell has also been adept at getting into advantageous counts and driving the ball when he puts himself in those spots. He owned a .324/.517/.599/1.116 slash line in 2016 when ahead in the count, and a .368/.420/.709/1.209 slash in zero strike counts. Russell has also shown an ability to work deep counts and succeed in them, forcing 91 full counts and walking more times (35) than striking out (28), en route to posting a .908 OPS.
According to Olney, Russell’s success in hitters counts “suggest that he anticipated fastballs and too advantage when he got them, and his struggles when he fell behind in the count indicated he has more work to do.” Sounds like a spot-on assessment of Russell at the dish, though Olney notes Russell has shown the ability to make the proper adjustments.
The next step for Russell to take will be to make these adjustments last for longer periods of time.
Remember when Russell started 1-for-24 in the first seven games of the 2016 postseason? If you do, then you might also recall how he bounced back and went 12-for-40 (.300 average, .575 slugging pct., .901 OPS) in the 10 games that followed that 24 at-bat slump.
Depending on how Russell’s offensive development grows in 2017, he could find his way inside the top-5 when this list rolls around this time next year.