Addison Russell had a breakout season for the Cubs last season. But, can fantasy owners believe in the power in 2017?
The Cubs have their fair share of talent on both sides of the ball, but one player that seems to have a sky-high ceiling is, Addison Russell. Last season, he became a key RBI producer for the team and his power surge certainly helped the offense throughout the entire course of the year. While his breakout was impressive, can fantasy owners believe in him next season?
Addison Russell came over to the Cubs in 2014 and was universally hailed as a top prospect. While his 2015 was underwhelming, he bounced back in a great way in 2016. He finished last season with a .238/21 HR/95 RBI/.738 OPS line over 151 games. The power was the highest output throughout his entire career and no one would expect him to flirt with nearly 100 RBI.
The one down stat that is clearly the AVG. He struck out 135 times last season, a far too high of a number obviously. Russell did lower his K rate by nearly 6% from 2015 and upped his BB rate to 9.2%. While the AVG concerns were substantial last season, he never batted higher than .268 in any month, he is trending in the right direction in terms of his plate approach.
Looking at his batted ball data, Russell continued to post solid rates across the board. He posted 21% LD, 41% GB, 38% FB, 47% Med and 29% Hard contact rates last season. The LD rate was up by nearly 3% from 2015 and his 29% Hard contact rate was the highest of his career.
Russell did only post a .223/9 HR line against LHP, which is clearly an area that he needs to improve in order to take the next step. He did “improve” his AVG from a paltry .156 clip against them in 2015, so hopefully, he will just continue to make adjustments. Owners should not lose sight that he will only be 23-years-old next season as well, so he still has plenty of time to keep improving.
While he does swing and miss a lot, he also suffered from a below league average ..277 BABIP in 2016. Even though he does not post any notable SB numbers, only five last season, he is not slow by any means. If he can keep lowering his K rate, his AVG should climb near .260 which would be a huge boost to his value.
The crux of Russell’s value will not only be with his power but also his RBI production. The Cubs will one again sport a tremendous lineup and he should slide right back into the fifth spot in the lineup. With Ben Zobrist, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Anthony Rizzo in front of him, 90+ RBI are easily back on the table.
The SS position in fantasy baseball is usually weak. But, there is more depth than in years past thanks in large part to players like Addison Russell emerging. While he is cemented as a top-10 option, there is definitely top-5 upside. The power surge is legit and he has a great spot in a stacked lineup, the value is clear.
The AVG woes hurt some and there will be low points next season. But, a potential 25 HR/95 RBI option from the SS is a tremendous value. Do not overlook Addison Russell this spring.