Now for something completely (somewhat) different: The lede was buried (though not dead yet) so let’s talk about Addison Russell. The hype for him was so great when the Cubs acquired him from the Athletics for half a season of Jason Hammel and Jeff Samardzija in 2014. Now he’s firmly behind Javier Baez in the Cubs middle infielder hierarchy but I don’t think he’s done in fantasyland.
Born Geoffreye O’Neal Addison Robert Watts Jr III on his birth certificate (note to future parents: really do up your kid’s name on their birth certificate; three names is for amateurs), the name Addison came from Bruce Willis’ character in Moonlighting (if you’re too young to know that show too bad). Addison changed his name the Addison Wayne Russell after being adopted by his step father at age 13 (that’s feel good).
Russell had the pedigree coming up as the 11th overall pick out of high school in the 2012 draft and he progressed steadily through the A’s system, reaching AA in 2014 before his trade to the Cubs. In 2015 he spent 11 games at AAA before joining the Cubs for the rest of their season, going 60/13/54/4/.238/.696 (Runs/HRs/RBIs/Steals/AVG/OPS). Not a great line but the Cubs weren’t expecting much at the plate of the then 21-year-old. 2016 continued a positive trend as Russell hit 67/21/95/5/.238/.738. Only his average didn’t improve while he added some homers and a great RBI total. 2017 did not treat Russell as well, as a foot injury sidelined him for a chunk of the season and he only had 352 at-bats, in which he hit 52/12/43/2/.239/.722.
Russell is 24 years old this season and while he hasn’t wowed anyone yet in 2018 leading to his ownership numbers of 42% owned in Yahoo!, 35% ESPN and 73% Fantrax (That’s too high Fantrax, I don’t believe you, do Cubs fans make up half the user base?). Some positive trends have begun to emerge in 2018 and that’s what we are here to look at.
First, the good: through 41 games this season Russell has the best BB% and K% of his big league career. Here are his BB% from 2015-2018: 8.0%, 9.2%, 7.5%, 11.7%. His K% for the same years: 28.5%, 22.6%, 23.6%, 20.4%. So he’s striking out less, walking more…go on you say. He’s pulling the ball less this season than prior while hitting the ball to center and the opposite field more. He’s progressing as a hitter although it is happening at a snail’s pace.
His batting average is a solid .262 and that is helped by a .333 BABIP, but that’s not outrageous when looking at his history and if he settles in around .250 that’s still a positive trend for his career thus far. Though it appears his average will never be much better than the current .262, his OPS has more room to grow, and he’s one of the guys that OPS Leaguers should know even better.
Lately he’s been hitting in the lower half of the order, but not at a consistent spot (thanks Joe Maddon, your lineup cards are always so fun and consistent and really help young hitters develop). He’s hit 7th, 8th, 4th and 5th over the last week so runs are not going to be his thing on the other hand RBIs are there for the taking.
He’s only hit one home run (as of this writing) in 2018 and his ISO in 2018 is .106 but he’s coming off two straight .179 seasons so the power is there, it’s just hibernating through the brutal Chicago winter/spring. As such you don’t need to run to the waiver wire (walk, it’s not that far) to add him up, but if you’re in dynasty leagues he shouldn’t cost much and it’s worth the investment. If you really want a sign, once he hits three homers in the same week it’s time to add him.