Pace High School alumnus Addison Russell does not fit the traditional pro shortstop mold. Though he’s shed about 20 pounds of baby fat and added some more lean muscle to his frame lately, he’s built broad-chested and square-shouldered, a far cry from the prototypical wiry, acrobat that big league teams look for when they draft for the middle infield. At 6’1″, 210, he’s high-waisted, with huge hands and a developed upper body– though he’s not at all stiff. Don’t let his NFL running back appearance fool you though, Russell offers legitimate superstar potential and more than enough glove for a big league second base or shortstop job. The Scott Boras client has been largely overlooked as a top-ten draft pick heading in to June– by almost all blogs and publications besides BaseballNewsHound.com. He has just as much potential as Carlos Correa though, and flat-out, he is a better investment than Deven Marrero despite being three and a half years younger (no knock on Marrero here).
Playing alongside fellow top-shelf infielder Alex Bregman at Pace High, Addison Russell has put together a very impressive amateur career. In 2010, while leading Pace to a state championship, he topped the team in batting average, hitting a filthy .529 while facing some of the country’s best high school arms. He made a name for himself on the national scene when he dazzled scouts and pro clubs at the Perfect Game USA 2009 Southeast Underclass Showcase and then as an Under Armour All-American following his sophomore season. On the P.G. showcase circuit, he ranked atop the infield arm strength drills and collected two extra-base hits in his first three at bats. He put together his best campaign during his junior season with the Patriots, batting .500 and belting 10 homeruns. Over the following summer, he accompanied the Team USA Baseball 18U club to the Pan American Games. He hit a whopping .364/.481/.614, led the team in triples (2) and walks (10), and hit a monster grand slam in the Pan American Championship game against Canada. Then, during his senior season, he capped off his Patriots career by leading the ballclub to the Class-6A state finals, batting .358 with eight homers and 33 RBI. He earned honors as a 2012 Rawlings First-Team All-American for his performance.
Russell is the rare five-tool prospect who’s blessed with the raw ability to stick in the middle infield. He’s a very good straight-line runner, boasting 60-yard-dash times that have pushed 6.7 seconds. He takes his speed and body control to the field and the basepaths effectively too. A solid base-stealer, he makes good baserunning reads and gets good jumps. At shortstop, his feet are much quicker than most would assume (judging by his build), and he maintains a low center of gravity while making smooth plays to both his arm and glove side. Defensively, he’ll have to work to remain at shortstop, but he has the prerequisite soft hands, lithe footwork and strong arm. He has experience at second and third base as well. Showing nice transfers and body control– even when turning the double play– he could definitely stick at either position. His arm strength already plays solid-average to plus, and he makes accurate throws from all angles. With the 18U national team last summer, he posted a .968 fielding percentage at shortstop and made just two errors in fifteen games. He could use some fundamental work on his back-hand glove-work and his overall aggressiveness, but for his age, he’s a very good fielder.
At the plate, Russell is a beast. His body is fortified with power-muscle, and his core, shoulders and back are straight diesel. He can hang-clean nearly 350 pounds, boasting well-developed fast-twitch muscles in his lats, shoulders and trunk. He generates explosive bat-speed and plus raw power by whipping the bat through the zone with his core and legs, a la Gary Sheffield. Using his hands to stay inside the ball, his bone-crushing grip and wrist strength makes his swing rock-solid. Unlike most young sluggers though, he takes his power to games. He already shows above-average homerun pop to his pull side, driving anything hard and inside with great loft and carry. He also offers some serious power potential to the rest of the park as well, proving himself when he mashed a bomb grand slam against Team Canada in the Pan Am Games last year. He makes loud contact with pretty much anything near his hitting zone, and he can drive high heat with authority. He shows good feel for the barrel, but he’s so strong, that he can still create laser exit velocity when he doesn’t fully square up a pitch. His line-drives scream out of the infield and his bat speed could push plus-plus by his big league debut.
As a hitter, Russell doesn’t get enough credit. His batting average was slightly down during his senior campaign, but he still put up very impressive numbers. He consistently posts great lines on the All-Star circuit, facing the best high school arms in the country, and he pretty much out-hit every player not named Gavin Cecchini during his 2011 stint in with the national team– well out performing premium hitters David Dahl, Jesse Winker and Albert Almora at the plate. Like a young Gary Sheffield, his swing can get a little bit wild, especially when he’s trying to destroy any fastball near the plate to impress spectators. He has a lot of rocking and bat movement in his set-up, often showing different stances from one plate appearance to another. If he quiets his hands a bit though, he offers all of the other necessary tools to hit for average. He uses his core and legs to add power, and makes a very smooth weight transfer with a short, controlled stride. His tremendous strength helps him keep his hand inside the ball despite the massive torque his swing creates. When he loads, he’ll occasionally adds a small hitch to his swing, but his hands are generally clean. He takes a short, direct path to the ball and finishes with a nice long, follow-through. He does a great job of staying back and behind the ball, despite such forceful movement in his cut. Separating his hands from his body’s initial forward momentum, he creates massive rotational energy.
Russell’s approach is advanced for his age. Like the majority of young power guys, he’s a guess-hitter and prone to strikeouts. But, he shows advanced pitch recognition skills and can adjust offspeed. His bat control won’t ever be premium, but his hand-eye coordination and immense strength helps him make hard contact on breaking stuff and to foul off tough pitches on the edges of the zone. He has a patient approach at the plate, more than willing to take a walk, but doesn’t let himself get passive. He wants to get on base and help his team win, offering the competitive drive necessary to win big.
Addison Russell is a true champion, through and through. He’s a monster at the dish, boasting serious homerun power, advanced hitting skills and above-average running speed. If he signs with the Athletics, he’ll start his career with an organization that believes in his future at shortstop, but he’ll have to ignore a pro baseball community that doubts he can stick there. Regardless, he has more than enough present ability and potential to stick in the middle of the diamond. If he continues to develop, he could eventually become a Jhonny Peralta-type infielder. His potential is sky-high though, and if he really hits, the A’s might have the next Miguel Tejada on their hands.