Most people in baseball know who Addison Russell is, an excellent plus defender who, at 22 years old, has gobs of potential. He took over at shortstop in 2015 for the Chicago Cubs when Joe Maddon made the wise decision to supplant long-time Cubs’ starting shortstop Starlin Castro, initially sending him to the bench and later to second base.
We all know the rest of that story – Addison Russell made some incredible defensive plays, cemented his spot as the Cubs starting shortstop and, in the offseason, the Cubs traded Castro for Adam Warren, who is now a Yankee again. It was a merry-go-round series of events, to be certain.
What those changes did was send the message, loud and clear, to Addison that he is the future starting shortstop, come hell or high water, for the Chicago Cubs. Now, come ready to play everyday. A luxury, no doubt, that was afforded to Russell at a tender age. It was something he had earned and was being rewarded for by making mind-boggling defensive plays on a regular basis.
As 2016 began, we got an up close glimpse at all that potential. In Spring Training, Russell showed off his power, hitting six home runs in 54 at-bats and slashing .259/.328/.611. And yes, it was spring training, blah, blah blah, but watching this kid swing the bat like that made people start to talk about the what if’s.
The 2016 regular season began for the Cubs on the road, where they’d win 5-of-6 games, and lose Kyle Schwarber for the season, before heading home to opening day at Wrigley field. The energy that day was incredible, filled with excitement and longing by a city that couldn’t wait to see their boys back home after an exciting spring.
It was that night, in the game against the Cincinnati Reds, who at the time were 5-1 and had just won 2-of-3 from the Pirates, that Russell made his first stamp on this season.
Addison would go on to earn his first start in an All-Star game, thanks in large part to his incredible defensive prowess. He’s the shortstop version of a 4th of July fireworks finale. Don’t get up from your seat because you may miss him do something special.
Offensively, Addison has been good but not particularly great. His batting average through June was .235 – he hit .242 in his rookie season – so there’s a sense that it would only be a matter of time until he broke through with the bat.
July has been another story altogether for Russell. In 88 plate appearances he’s slashing .288/.341/.513 with a 126 wRC+ and 4 home runs. In his short major league career he’s never had a month with a higher batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wRC+ or home runs.
Last night, Addison Russell did what he has done and continues to do so well. He stepped up in a clutch situation and he delivered, with a huge grand slam that put the fans at Wrigley in a frenzy and put the game out of reach for the White Sox. It was a perfect way to punctuate what is turning into a breakout month for Addison, and surely a sign of things to come.