The A's surprised a lot of people by sending their top draft pick from the 2012 draft, Addison Russell, to High-A to start the 2013 season, despite playing just 16 games at Low-A last year. He struggled to start the season, hitting just .219/.312/.410, and missing time due to injuries. However, he has been really hitting since the calendar turned to June, posting a .373/.407/.667 line with 12 extra base hits. The hype on him has been unbelievably high, but could it turn out to be more real than we thought so early in his career?
Weight: 195 lbs.
On 40-man roster: No
Age as of 6/21/13: 19
Russell came into his senior season considered by Baseball America to be the #19 high school prospect available (according to the 2012 Handbook), but there were concerns that Russell would have to move off of shortstop as a professional due to his size (even earning the dreaded "Juan Uribe comparisons"). However, "Those comparisons no longer work physically, though, as he has lost at least 20 pounds and shaped up his physique considerably." Russell hit .358 with a .532 OBP and 8 home runs his senior year, and was selected by the Athletics with the 11th overall pick in the draft.
The team signed Russell to a bonus of $2.625 million, the exact slot recommendation, and quickly sent him to their Arizona Rookie League affiliate. He torched the place, hitting in 19 straight games and 23 of the 26 while he was there with a line of .415/..488/.717 with 6 home runs and 9 stolen bases. They sent him to their short season low-A affiliate in Vermont, hitting in 11 of 13 games and finishing with a .340/.386/.509 slash line.
Given the success he had shown to this point, the A's gave him yet another challenge, finishing up the season with their full season Low-A affiliate where he only hit .310/.369/.448 with 5 stolen bases over 16 games. His final line across those levels: .369/.432/.594, 10 doubles, 9 triples, 7 home runs, 45 runs batted in, and 16 stolen bases in 18 tries (55 games).
So far at High-A this year, Russell has a total line of .249/.332/.467 with seven home runs and seven stolen bases in 55 games played. Not quite the numbers you'd ideally hope to see given how much of a hitter's paradise the California League can be, but still very very good for a 19 year old playing against mostly college players.
The Scouting Report - Scouting reports are gathered from other internet sources and written reports, unless otherwise noted.
Russell projects to stay at the shortstop position in both the short and long term, and reports on his defense seem to point to that remaining the same as the season has progressed. It doesn't sound like he is expected to be an elite defender, but definitely can hold his own at the position. The true value comes from the bat, which has the potential to flash at elite levels. He is expected to have above-average power, and although there are concerns that his swing could lead to high strikeout totals, it is not expected that he will cause fantasy owners pain with the batting average he provides. He has shown the potential to be a five-tool player as he moves up the chain, and also receives high marks on his makeup and baseball instincts.
What's Next for Russell?
Russell will likely stay at High-A for the duration of the season, and honestly even if he repeated the level again next year would still be very young for the level. I was able to watch some of his at bats during spring training this year with the big club, and I don't know that the average fan would necessarily have been able to tell him apart based on how he looked and how the swings in game looked.
This is a player that Jason Parks mentioned as having the potential to be the #1 overall prospect in the game in the preseason (although it's abundantly clear, and mentioned by him as such, that Byron Buxton will be holding that spot for the foreseeable future), but the idea that it is even possible makes fans drool. While it may be a bit of hyperbole, he remains a player that is anticipated to be an above-average offensive contributor while playing a solid shortstop. I targeted him in our mock prospect draft back in the offseason, and can see him being ranked even higher amongst shortstops during our offseason rankings this year.