When scouting we get a snapshot of a player. The hope is, the player we see today evolves into the player we envision him to be. Ideally, we can watch this progression and alter our perspectives as time passes. That brings me to today’s prospect, Oakland’s Addison Russell. Twice this year I’ve had the chance to see Russell with the Vermont Lake Monsters of the New York – Penn League. But, a year before I was able to see him live, my Bullpen Banter colleague Steve Fiorindo scouted Russell at the Perfect Game Showcase in San Diego. After several weeks and a promotion, Stephen Kuperman was able to see him against more advanced pitching in the Midwest League. It is my hope that these three individual looks at Russell demonstrates that prospects evolve over time and while we can learn a lot in a single look at a player, scouting in small sample sizes can be problematic if we aren’t open to new information and making adjustments. Of course, I’ll also talk about his fantasy outlook, but you’ll have to humor me for just a moment.
Before I begin, take a brief look at Steve’s video of Russell at the Perfect Game Showcase.
A few things should standout. After a brief slideshow you should see Russell taking infield practice at third base. Why is this relevant? This year Russell was drafted 11th overall by the Athletics to be a shortstop. You may also notice a well developed lower half. At 17 years old, Russell owned a giant pair of quadriceps and hamstrings and has an equally large tush. Last year Fiorindo felt Russell’s body was mature and third base was a likely home. We can assume those at Perfect Game agreed with Steve; Russell played third in that showcase.
A year later I was able to watch Russell on back to back nights when Vermont visited Brooklyn this August. But before I get to the video, check out this rough side by side.
Ok, very rough side by side. Still, I think the differences are stark. In high school Russell was quite muscular. His back was noticeably wider than it is today and his arms were bigger too. Of course, you can also see a difference in his size of his legs. The 18-year-old I saw was far more like a gawky teen than, to use Fiorindo’s body comparison, Adrian Beltre.
That isn’t to say Fiorindo was off. Russell’s body has changed over the past year. Its safe to assume the drastic change in his frame is linked to the Athletics desire for him to play shortstop. Sadly, Vermont did not take infield in either of the games I saw and he was rarely challenged at short in the sole game he wore a glove making projecting his future position difficult. My gut feeling from watching his actions in the field, at the plate, and on he base paths was that Russell had the athleticism for the position. Kuperman, who scouted Russell when he donned a Burlington Bees jersey, didn’t disagree but foresees a shift to third in Russell’s later years as his body filled out. Assuming some growth is reasonable given that we’ve already seen Russell far larger than he is today. On the other hand, we’ve also seen him work to make his body leaner so it wouldn’t surprise me if he was able to maintain his current build.
I have to discuss Russell’s fantasy outlook don’t I? Clearly Russell projects to play on the left side of the infield and as I mentioned last week, the offensive drop-off between third base and shortstop has lessened of late. Still, with Kuperman’s aid, I’m comfortable projecting him a shortstop until he proves otherwise.
At the plate Russell works the count well and has a good understanding of strike zone. Though, he is susceptible to breaking balls low in the zone. He possess excellent hands which, at times, he is able to keep back when he is fooled by breaking balls and make solid contact. Ideally, I would prefer he let those pitches go, but it’s impressive to see him barrel a ball after being put off balance. Russell’s quick hands allow him to, in Kuperman’s words, kill fastballs. At 18 years old, his ability to keep his hands inside the ball and drive ball to all fields is impressive. In Brooklyn, Russell’s power flashed brightest when the ball was hit into the right centerfield gap. While he’s mostly showing gap power at the moment, I project he’ll hit for both above average power and batting average as he develops. He’s quick, for now, but as he grows and reaches the show don’t expect large stolen base totals from Russell.
With names like Profar, Bogaerts, Lindor and Correra among the Top 25 prospects in baseball, shortstop is easily the strongest position in the minor leagues right now. My advice? Add Addison Russell to that impressive list and your fantasy team. He’s special.
Prospect Video of the Week: MORE SHORTSTOPS!! Jeff Reese was able to catch video of Francisco Lindor wearing – without question – the ugliest jersey of all time. Oh, and he plays baseball too. Enjoy!