Writing about prospects is a funny thing. Your goal when you start doing this is to provide as close to unbiased analysis as possible, with the main aim of informing your readers to help them make more informed decisions about their own fantasy teams. With that said, the more you learn about and watch prospects, the more likely you are to end up with players that your evaluation has at least some partial bias on. For me, Addison Russell remains that prospect in spite of his trade away from the Athletics, and has turned into the prospect that was hoped for when he was drafted.
Drafted by the Athletics with the 11th overall pick in 2012, Russell had raised his stock prior to the draft quite a bit after losing 20 pounds before his senior year, which allowed his athleticism to show through more fully for evaluators. Russell was the first high schooler the Athletics took with their top draft pick for the first time since 1996 when they grabbed Eric Chavez out of a San Diego high school, and he signed for a bonus of $2.625 million fairly quickly.
The Athletics sent him out to their Arizona League affiliate, where he was promoted again after a 26-game stint where he hit .415/.488/.717 with 6 home runs and 9 stolen bases. A quick stop in Vermont brought another home run and two steals before he was sent to full-season ball in the Midwest League for the final 16 games of the season. It was thought that after the strong performance in his debut that he would return for a relatively aggressive assignment to full-season Low-A, but the A's had other plans in mind.
Russell was one of two high school draft picks from the 2012 draft class to be moved past Low-A, and given an even more aggressive assignment in High-A. The California League turned out to be less of a challenge than was anticipated, as he hit .275/.377/.508 with 17 home runs and 21 stolen bases over 107 games with Stockton.
I had the opportunity during that season to go see Russell in person, and it did little to dissuade me of the potential for future fantasy greatness. His swing was easy and fluid, and allowed him to generate power and loft fairly easily. Even though it was only batting practice, his excellent bat speed was apparent as well. He was clearly swinging for the fences during BP, but was also sending liners to all fields. Prior to the draft there had been questions about his ability long-term to stay at shortstop, and that he would grow too much and require a move to third base. His actions that day during infield were very fluid as well, and clearly possessed an arm strong enough to stay at the position as well.
He was promoted to AA Midland for the start of the 2014 season, and after notching five hits in seven at bats, ended up missing nearly two months with a torn hamstring. He returned to the field in mid-June with a five-game stint back in Stockton before returning to AA Midland. He wasn't there long though, appearing in 11 games before the blockbuster trade that sent him from Oakland to the Chicago Cubs. It didn't take him long to acclimate to a different AA league, and in 50 games with Tennessee, Russell added 12 home runs to go along with a .294 batting average.
Russell appears ready for a stint at AAA Iowa despite only appearing in 63 games at AA last year, and could be up in the Majors before too long. He had a very clear path to the majors in Oakland, and would likely have been in line for the starting shortstop job there despite the lack of time at AAA. The question now stems from where he will play for the Cubs when that happens. He has shown enough defensively that there are not questions about whether he can stay at shortstop from his side of the equation. However, with Starlin Castro currently entrenched at the position, he could end up with a move somewhere else on the diamond.
His bat will play regardless of the position he ends up at, as he can potentially be a high-average hitter with an excellent power-speed combination that should turn into a perennial first round pick in nearly all formats. A .290/.380/.500 slash line with 20-25 home runs, 15-20 steals, 90+ runs and 90+ RBI is definitely within the range of possibility from Russell, with him potentially being a top 5 option at any of shortstop, second base, third base, or even the outfield. He is a player that I will be looking at in deeper redraft formats as a potential reserve option on the hope that he is called up sometime after the All-Star break, as he could be a top 10 option in half a season of playing time.