Addison Russell is the shortstop of the future for the Oakland A’s. He is going to be the next big thing. He is going to be the next Miguel Tejada cementing his status as an Oakland legend. It’s ok. You don’t have to believe me. You can disagree with the hype I’m putting on a player who has never played a big league inning, but at least write it down somewhere or save this link. Why will Russell be such a star for the A’s? There are only two tangible ways to provide value to your team. Offense and defense. Russell excels at both of these aspects of the game.
Russell, MLB Network’s 14th best prospect in MLB going into the 2014 season, was drafted in the first round with the 11th pick out of Pace High School in Florida in 2012. It was a mildly surprising pick for the A’s. They tend to select college players in the draft. College players are more seasoned then high school players and therefore can be in the Majors faster. They also are closer to a proven commodity than a young high school player who is still developing. For a small payroll team like the A’s who cannot afford to wait out a player’s development generally, college players just make more sense.
Scouts were split when looking at Russell as a shortstop coming out of high school. They knew his bat was the real deal, but his defense was in question. One half of the scouts said he could stay at short, the other half said he would transition to third base or second base. He has the arm strength, but his range is in question.
While advanced metrics for defense are not easily found for a minor league player, the best way to judge Russell defensively without watching him in person everyday is to look at his fielding percentage. Playing nearly all of last season in the extremely hitter friendly California League (High-A) with the Stockton Ports Russell put up a .968 fielding percentage. If he can replicate those numbers this season, presumably the bulk of the time being at Triple-A Sacramento, his critics will be silenced. Again, his arm is not in question, but his range. With Josh Donaldson on the other side of him in Oakland the A’s will have one the best left sides of the infield in all of baseball.
This all comes without even diving into Russell’s offense. Though he struggled in his first action in Stockton he bounced back to have a huge year, good enough for a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento completely skipping Double-A Midland. Russell finished with a .275/.377/.508 triple slash line at Stockton showing a surprising amount of power. Though he will not match up to Tejada’s power numbers Russell will match him in every other department.
Russell will presumably end up starting in Sacramento this season. If he can continue to put up the offensive numbers while playing improved defense expect to see him in Oakland by July. Not only will Russell provide a boost to the A’s, it allows them to move Jed Lowrie over to second base where his defensive inefficiencies are more hidden. It also allows them to use Lowrie as trade bait in the offseason to potentially replenish a quickly drying up prospect well.
The A’s have found their next star. He play defense potentially at an All-Star level and also he can straight rake. It’s time for him to be able to shine. It may not be in the first couple of months of the season, but once he arrives he will stay. It’s time for the next Miguel Tejada to step into his own.