2014 Fantasy BaseballChris GarosiProspects

45 Prospects in 45 Days: Oakland’s Addison Russell

Profile

Addison Russell was the Oakland A’s first round pick in 2011 (11th overall) out of Pace High School in Florida. He was the highest-drafted high-school player by Oakland since they chose Eric Chavez with the tenth pick overall in the 1998 draft.

addison_RussellThe 6’ 195 lb right handed hitter is entering his age 20 season having touched AAA in 2013, but spent most of his season in high A as a 19 year old.  He also picked up 85 at bats in the Arizona Fall League and made the Rising Stars game as one of the youngest players on the squad. Russell suffered a hamstring injury in spring training, but it is not considered serious. Bob Melvin did say that Russell would have be part of the final cuts if he was healthy, but was sent out early to rehab the injury.

Pundits

Baseball Prospectus puts Russell in the top 10 at number seven (up from 22 in 2013) and first overall in the A’s system where he also stood prior to the 2013 season. Parks gushes while picking the smallest of nits:

His overall profile is special, but you can raise some red flags if you use a sharp enough lens; the actions are sweet at short but the range isn’t ideal and he can play a bit hard, and at the plate his swing can be too power driven with early extension on an exaggerated plane. Even if he moves to third down the line, which I don’t think is a given, the bat will not only play but allow him to reach a first-division status.

Keith Law boosts Russell all the way to third in baseball this year (up from 10 in 2013) and also first overall in the A’s system. Law is also effusive in his praise:

One of the best pure hitters in the minors, Russell is an incredibly gifted player who has a mature approach at the plate and some of the softest hands you’ll ever see in the field.

Once a muscled-up third baseman, Russell dropped more than 20 pounds before his senior year of high school because he wanted to prove to scouts he could stay at shortstop, a decision that has worked out in every respect and also reflects his work ethic and humility as a ballplayer.

He has a simple, fluid right-handed swing with some loft through his finish to generate line drives; his bat speed is so good and the contact he makes is so hard that I still see more power in the future for him, 15-20 homers a year, if not more.

Baseball America slots Russell at #14 (one spot behind the Indians’ Francisco Lindor) and of course number on in the A’s system. BA thinks:

The bat, athleticism and explosive speed have Russell nearly big league-ready offensively.

Jim Callis and the MLBPipeline crew rate Russell #12 in baseball and number one in the A’s system. They note:

Russell uses the whole field to hit, and his quick hands enable him to make consistent hard contact. He has surprising pop and could develop above-average power in the future. He isn’t a speedster, but he gets the most out of his solid speed, and he’s aggressive on the base paths.

And Bernie Pleskoff (also at MLB.com) states in his 2013 scouting report:

Based upon my scouting observations, Russell could be a true five-tool star in the game for years.

Russell is a consensus top 15 prospect in all of baseball and the sky looks to be the limit for him.

Minor League Production

As you peruse these numbers, remember that Russell was just 19 in his 2013 year and was the youngest player to qualify for the leader boards in the Cal League.

Russell's Minor League Production
Russell’s Minor League Production

There just isn’t much to complain about (except perhaps the ballooning K% rate) in Russell’s 2013. As a youngster, Russell put up a respectable .885 OPS and 131 wRC+ while putting up double digit HRs and SBs. Russell has a lot to dream on and hasn’t shown any issues so far.  If he can hit at the top of a lineup, we could see a five category contributor in fantasy.

Projections

It is unlikely that Russell sees time at the major league level this year (outside of a September callup or an injury in the A’s infield). That said, what could we expect from Russell should he see regular time?

Russell's 2014 Projections
Russell’s 2014 Projections

I think the projections are a bit tough on Russell’s hit tool while being a bit kind to his power tool. I don’t think he’s show quite as much power should he be called upon to play full time at the major league level (especially given his home park and that his 2013 stats were put up in the high octane Cal League). However, I think the systems ding him too much for his strikeout rate in 2013. I predict Russell makes some adjustments (as the stories about his work ethic are positive) and he should be able to progress this year with pitch recognition and contact ability.

Prediction

Russell’s 2014 value is likely minimal as I don’t expect to see him at the major league level until September 1. However, I expect Russell to be the A’s starting shortstop in 2015 with the A’s potentially shifting Jed Lowrie to 2B where he’s played in the past.

Should Russell get the call earlier this year, I see him as a league average shortstop who would contribute with some HR and SBs, but may disappoint elsewhere as he’d likely bat down in the order.

In dynasty/keeper leagues, Russell is a top 20 selection – he’s got star written all over him as he seems to possess a perfect mix of top line skills and tremendous work ethic and makeup. He’s a player you’d like to have anchor your middle infield for a decade. He could very well be Derek Jeter without the Yankee mystique, but with more power and a lower average.

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