Photo credit: (Chicago Sun-Times)

Heading into the previous two years, we did some over/under Cubs player prop picks, using Bovada's lines (h/t to @JoeO670 to sending these to us after Bovada took them down before Opening Day).

And guess what? We're doing it again! Wow, neat.

Anyway, let's get to it, and go Cubs.

Addison Russell Home Runs: 15.5

Matt (@TheBlogfines): OVER. Addison hit 13 homers in 142 games as a rookie, and hit eight homers in 70 second-half games (he also had a 70-point slugging percentage increase in the second half). This spring, he hit six homers, and showed notable power to center field and right field. He's driving the ball with authority to all fields and is getting more comfortable with the leg kick he added last year. He also told this to Fangraphs' Eno Sarris (in a great read) a few weeks ago:
"He’s not worried about losing power — 'The body feels good. My power is still there, I’m 15 pounds lighter and I’m seeing the ball well and the ball is coming off the bat two times harder.'"
Justin (@CubsFella): OVER. Russell looks stronger and is driving the ball more with his new leg kick, leading the team with six homers this spring.

Anthony Rizzo Batting Average: .280

Matt: UNDER. I'll say just a tad under, in the .274-.279 range. He hit .278 last year. and saw a BABIP drop of to .311 to .289 from 2014 to 2015, with some of that probably having to do with the shifts teams put on Rizzo. His OBP will be .370+ again, which is all that matters anyway.

Justin: OVER. Probably just by a little bit, but I expect Rizzo to continue to hit well overall.

Anthony Rizzo Home Runs: 30.5 

Matt: OVER. He hit 32 in 2014, 31 in 2015, he's in the prime of his career at 26... why shouldn't I expect him to do this?

Justin: UNDER. Again, probably just by a tad. I’ll say upper 20s in homers.

Anthony Rizzo RBI: 99.5

Matt: OVER. I think he's going to hit 31+ homers, have a .500+ slugging percentage, and he's going to bat behind three high on-base players (usually from the group of Fowler, Heyward, Zobrist, and Bryant). This is the formula to drive in 100 runs.

Justin: OVER. This team is loaded with high OBP guys and Maddon has said Rizzo will bat cleanup, presenting lots of RBI opportunities.

Ben Zobrist Batting Average: .270

Matt: OVER. The last three years: .276, .272, .275. Additionally, he was hurt in the first half last season, and hit .288 in the second half.

Justin: UNDER. Zobrist is a career .265 hitter. I expect he will stay consistent and hover right around .270, but maybe just under.

Jason Heyward Batting Average: .275

Matt: OVER. He hit .293 last year, but his .329 BABIP would also say it was a fairly fortunate .293. But I'd still guess that he won't have a drop-off of 19+ points in the average.

Justin: OVER. Heyward is just entering his prime, and hit .293 last year with a better than ever contact rate.

Jason Heyward Home Runs: 15.5

Matt: OVER. This is the most confident "over" I have. Which means it's probably the most likely to go wrong.

Justin: OVER. There are signs Heyward is trying to hit with more power and pull the ball more this spring. He hit 27 homers in 2012, and while I wouldn't predict that number, I think he can get into the 20s again.

Jason Heyward RBI: 69.5

Matt: OVER. He'll have a .340+ on-base guy ahead of him when batting second, and I'd guess he may move down to fifth or so for some games against left-handed pitching. In that case he'd be behind four high on-base guys. Add in what I think will be an increase in power, and driving in 70 runs seems pretty likely.

Justin: OVER. Again, RBI are mostly a team stat, and the Cubs are going to score plenty of runs.

Kris Bryant Batting Average: .270

Matt: UNDER. Bryant this spring has talked about a big focus being on how many pitches he swung through in the zone last year, and is looking to make more contact on such pitches. But, his swing is a pure power swing and that's not going to change too much. He's also extremely patient, and while that's going to help his on-base percentage, it's also going to result in a lot of strikeouts.

And here's the big one: Bryant had a .378 BABIP last year, which was fifth in the majors. He hits the ball hard, he beats a lot of grounders out, etc. But, it's really tough to sustain a BABIP like that, and expect it to drop 25+ points this year, which will then hurt his batting average. I'll say .265.

Justin: OVER. I expect him to keep getting better and better. I’ll be shocked if the batting average doesn't rise.

Kris Bryant Home Runs: 32.5

Matt: UNDER. Hitting 33 homers -- which would be seven more than he hit last year -- is really hard. He'll do it eventually, but in his sophomore season, I'll say 30.

Justin: UNDER. I’ll say 30 homers for Bryant this year. His uppercut swing is less dramatic and he is trying to make more contact. The power will stay just fine, but maybe a few more doubles, and a few less homers with the more level swing.

Kris Bryant RBI: 105.5

Matt: UNDER. Lower this number to 99.5 like it was for Rizzo, and I take the over. Only eight hitters drove in at least 106 runs last year.

Justin: OVER. Bryant will bat behind a lot of high OBP guys; he is going to drive in a lot of runs.

Kyle Schwarber Home Runs : 25.5

Matt: OVER. Honestly, this over/under is lower than I expected by a couple homers, especially with all the hype from the playoffs. The ZiPS projection system has Schwarber hitting 32, even. I'm assuming some of it has to do with the question of playing time, but he's the primary left fielder (vs righties, at least) and it sounds like he's going to start at catcher for a lot of Jason Hammel starts.

Justin: UNDER. Eventually Schwarber is going to hit a lot of home runs, but I’ll say the homer rate drops just a little in his sophomore season. He also might not play a ton against lefties because of how deep the Cubs are. I’ll say low 20s for HRs.

Kyle Schwarber RBI: 80.5

Matt: OVER. Around 30 homers and batting behind two .370+ OBP guys in Bryant and Rizzo? Yeah, he should top that RBI mark.

Justin: UNDER. Again not by much, but the fewer ABs thanks to extra catcher rest and sitting against lefties, might keep him in the 70s range.

Jake Arrieta ERA: 2.59

Matt: OVER. Now, a stat where the "over" is a bad thing. I'll say 2.75, which is still fantastic.

Justin: OVER. I expect very good numbers but even with some iffy sequencing, you can have a higher ERA than this. I’ll say upper 2s.

Jake Arrieta Strikeouts: 225.5

Matt: UNDER. He struck out 236 last year in 229 innings. However, he had literally the greatest second half of all-time, and he's not going to throw 229 innings again. The Cubs have made it clear they want to go easier on Arrieta after he ran out of gas last October. So, I wouldn't take the over on 200 here, even.

Justin: UNDER. Cubs will be careful with Arrieta’s workload this year; not sure he'll have the innings to get this high again. I’ll say just under.

Jake Arrieta Wins: 16.5

Matt: OVER. The Cubs are the best team in baseball on paper and have an amazing lineup, Arrieta is the team's ace... yeah, I think he wins 17+ games.

Justin: OVER. Wins are a team stat and this team will win a lot of games. Arrieta should give them a chance in most.

John Lackey Wins: 12

Matt: OVER. The Cubs are the best team in baseball on paper and have an amazing lineup, Lackey is very good... yeah, I think he wins 13+ games.

Justin: OVER. Lackey will give this potent offense plenty of opportunities to win.

Jon Lester Wins: 13.5

Matt: OVER. The Cubs are the best team in baseball on paper and have an amazing lineup, Lester is a second ace on this team... yeah, I think he wins 14+ games. I HATE PITCHER WINS.

Justin: OVER. See wins description under Arrieta and Lackey.

Jon Lester ERA: 3.20 

Matt: UNDER. I actually think Lester may be better than Arrieta this year, and that's not a knock on Arrieta. Lester had a 2.90 FIP last year, and remember he came out of the gate with a dead arm last spring. He had a brutal 6.23 ERA in April. Well, this spring, he looked like Jon Lester (especially with his cutter), and I think we see a great, steady year from the veteran lefty.

Justin: UNDER. Lester had a sub-3 FIP last year and has been very consistent for many years. I’ll say he gets luckier than last year and the ERA gets a little better.

Jon Lester Strikeouts: 199.5

Matt: UNDER. 205 innings last year, and 200+ innings each of the last four years. That's quite a recent workload, and as I said with Arrieta, I think the Cubs go at least a tad easier on the horses this year. It especially helps that they have four former starting pitchers in the bullpen, and currently have eight relievers. So, I think that will bring his strikeout totals down a little bit, as they're a volume stat. He'll strike batters out at a good enough rate to reach this number, he just may not get the innings to do it.

Justin: OVER. Lester is one Cubs pitcher I think will match the same amount of innings as last year, and his K rate has been very good the past couple of seasons.

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Here Is Addison Russell's First Career Homer

Posted by Matt Clapp | 5/01/2015 01:18:00 PM | ,

The first of many homers coming for the 21-year-old Addison Russell in the majors, folks.

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Who: Chicago Cubs (12-7) vs Pittsburgh Pirates (11-10)
When: Wednesday, April 29, 7:05 PM CT
Where: Wrigley Field

TV: CSN
Game Time Forecast: 47 Degrees, Partly Cloudy
Line: Pirates -113 Over/Under- 7 Total Runs

The Cubs are rolling, with four straight wins and a 12-7 record, sitting one game behind the Cardinals for the National League Central lead as we approach the end of April. Tonight at Wrigley, the Cubs go for a big three-game sweep of the Pirates, a team that figures to be right there with the Cubs in the thick of the NL Central and Wild Card race all year.

Here's some more info to get you ready for the game...

Lineups

Cubs:
1. Dexter Fowler, CF (.288 AVG, 1 HR, .804 OPS)
2. Jorge Soler, RF (.260 AVG, 2 HR, .749 OPS)
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (.323 AVG, 2 HR, .954 OPS)
4. Kris Bryant, 3B (.341 AVG, 0 HR, .910 OPS)
5. Miguel Montero, C (.214 AVG, 3 HR, .752 OPS)
6. Starlin Castro, SS (.342 AVG, 2 HR, .796 OPS)
7. Chris Coghlan, LF (.241 AVG, 3 HR, .787 OPS)
8. Kyle Hendricks, P (.173 AVG, 0 HR, .286 OPS)
9. Jonathan Herrera, 2B (.226 AVG, 0 HR, .540 OPS)

Pirates:
1. Gregory Polanco, RF (.284 AVG, 1 HR, .722 OPS)
2. Jordy Mercer, SS (.179 AVG, 0 HR, .444 OPS)
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (.179 AVG, 2 HR, .595 OPS)
4. Neil Walker, 2B (.286 AVG, 1 HR, .746 OPS)
5. Starling Marte, LF (.243 AVG, 6 HR, .752 OPS)
6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B (.226 AVG, 4 HR, .720 OPS)
7. Jung Ho Kang, 3B (.182 AVG, 0 HR, .436 OPS)
8. Chris Stewart, C (.214 AVG, 0 HR, .414 OPS)
9. Gerrit Cole, P (.111 AVG, 0 HR, .311 OPS)

Starting Pitchers 

Cubs: Kyle Hendricks  (5.74 ERA, 3.33 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 15 2/3 IP)

Pirates: Gerrit Cole (2.19 ERA, 2,33 FIP, 0.7 fWAR, 24 2/3 IP)

Cubs vs Cole

Welington Castillo: 4-11 (.364 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 2 K, 1.167 OPS

Starlin Castro: 5-9 (.556 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 1 K, 1.156 OPS.

Chris Coghlan 2-5 (.400 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 0 K, .900 OPS

Chris Denorfia: 3-5 (.600 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 0 K, 1.467 OPS.

Dexter Fowler: 0-2, 1 BB, 1 K

Junior Lake: 0-5, 1 BB, 2 K

Anthony Rizzo: 2-7 (.286 AVG), 0 HR, 2 BB, 3 K, .873 OPS

Pirates vs Hammel

Pedro Alvarez: 3-17 (.176 AVG), 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K, .869 OPS.

Francisco Cervelli: 2-3 (.667 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, 1.333 OPS.

Josh Harrison: 1-4 (.250 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 2 K, .750 OPS.

Corey Hart: 1-9 (.111 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 3 K, .222 OPS.

Starling Marte: 2-9 (.222 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 3 K, .444 OPS.

Andrew McCutchen: 6-20 (.300 AVG), 2 HR, 1 BB, 4 K, .983 OPS.

Jordy Mercer: 3-10 (.300 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 2 K, .700 OPS

Gregory Polanco 1-6 (.167 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, .333 OPS

Chris Stewart: 2-4 (.500 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 1 K, 1.100 OPS

Neil Walker: 2-9 (.222 AVG), 0 HR, 2 BB, 1 K, .639 OPS.

Who's Hot

Dexter Fowler is looking like a tremendous acquisition for the Cubs. The veteran center fielder is hitting .288 with a .366 obp, setting the tone at the top of the lineup. He has a five-game hitting streak, and has reached base three times in each of the first two games of this series. He's also stolen a base in each of the two games and has six stolen bases on the year.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte homered on Tuesday night, and is now 6-for-16 with three homers against the Cubs in 2015.

Who's Not

Jorge Soler is 2-for-22 with 13 strikeouts over his last seven games. He's shown some progress with his plate discipline over the last few days, however, and his plate discipline was one of his biggest visible strengths before this rough stretch. These things happen with young players, so let's give it some more time before we're too .

The struggles of Pirates superstar Andrew McCutchen continue, with his batting average at .179 and OPS at .595. This slump isn't going to last much longer and the Cubs should be very thankful they've played a couple series vs the Pirates without the real McCutchen facing them. He can carry them on his hot streaks.

This & That
Finally that's over and no surprise whatsoever.
Great news on Justin Grimm who would be a really nice boost for the Cubs' bullpen. Hopefully he can return to game action for the Cubs in the next couple of weeks.
It appears Tommy La Stella is a still a few weeks away, so Addison Russell will continue to be the primary second baseman for a bit.

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Around The Web

The First 10 Percent: An Early Look At The Cubs In A Small Sample Size- (Luis Medina; Bleacher Nation)

Cubs Not Afraid To Celebrate Fast Start- (Bruce Levine; 670 The Score)

Overshadowed, Stigmatized Starlin Castro Off To Big Start For Cubs- (Matt Snyder; Eye On Baseball)

Starlin Castro's Pursuit Of 1,000 Hits Puts Him In Elite Company- (Evan Altman; Cubs Insider)

Kris Bryant Effect, Addison Russell Watch, & Javier Baez's Future- (Paul Sullivan; Chicago Tribune)

Javy Baez Back In Action At Extended Spring Training- (Arizona Phil; The Cub Reporter)

Cubs Key To Success So Far This Season: Controlling The Strike Zone- (John Arguello; Cubs Den)

Joe Maddon Preaching Patience For Jorge Soler- (Patrick Mooney; CSN Chicago)

Jorge Soler Warms Up In The Cold- (Jesse Rogers; ESPN Chicago)

The 2015 Ballad Of Jon Lester: Start No. 4- (Andrew Felper; BP Wrigleyville)

Jon Lester's Breakout Date Revealed- (Evan Altman; Cubs Insider)

Albert Almora Placed On The 7-Day DL For Smokies (@SmokiesOnRadio)

Jason McLeod Talks Cubs, Prospects, & The Draft On MLB Network Radio- (Neil; Chicago Cubs Online)

Cards Look At How To Fill Wainwright Void- (Derrick Goold; St. Louis Dispatch)

Reds' Homer Bailey 'Won't Be Pitching In The Near Future' As Elbow Woes Continue- (Israel Fehr; Big League Stew)

White Sox-Orioles Will Be The First One Ever Played Without A Crowd- (David Just; Chicago Sun-Times)


Tweet Of The Day

Video Of The Day




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Who: Chicago Cubs (8-5) vs Pittsburgh Pirates (6-8)
When: Wednesday, April 22, 6:05 PM CT
Where: PNC Park; Pittsburgh, PA

TV: CSN
Game Time Forecast: 45 Degrees, Chance Of Rain
Line: Pirates -111; Over/Under- 7.5 Total Runs

The Cubs had another dramatic come-from-behind win on Tuesday night, stunning the Pirates by the score of 9-8 at PNC Park. Down 8-5, the Cubs scored one run in the eighth on a Welington Castillo solo homer, and added three more runs in the ninth inning off Pirates closer Mark Melancon.

It was a great showing of the new offense the Cubs have, and particularly how dangerous their middle of the order now is. Oh, and it all overshadowed the debut of top prospect Addison Russell, who batted ninth and started at second base.

Up 2-0 in a key series against the NL Central rival Pirates, the Cubs now get a chance to already win the four-game series on game three Wednesday night. Here's more fun stuff to get ready for the game...

Lineups

Cubs:
1. Dexter Fowler, CF (.232 AVG, 1 HR, .728 OPS)
2. Jorge Soler, RF (.327 AVG, 2 HR, .894 OPS)
3. Anthony Rizzo, 1B (.302 AVG, 1 HR, .870 OPS)
4. Kris Bryant, 3B (.444 AVG, 0 HR, 1.194 OPS)
5. Starlin Castro, SS (.352 AVG, 2 HR, .856 OPS)
6. Miguel Montero, C (.172 AVG, 2 HR, .711 OPS)
7. Chris Coghlan, LF (.231 AVG, 2 HR, .764 OPS)
8. Jason Hammel, P (.500 (3-6), 0 HR, 1.167 OPS)
9. Addison Russell, 2B (0-5, .000 OPS)

Pirates:
1. Josh Harrison, 3B (.212 AVG, 2 HR, .633 OPS)
2. Gregory Polanco, RF (.250 AVG, 0 HR, .605 OPS)
3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (.222 AVG, 2 HR, .745 OPS)
4. Neil Walker, 2B (.240 AVG, 1 HR, .658 OPS)
5. Starling Marte, LF (.208 AVG, 5 HR, .792 OPS)
6. Pedro Alvarez, 1B (.227 AVG, 4 HR, .799 OPS)
7. Francisco Cervelli, C (.306 AVG, 0 HR, .736 OPS)
8. Jung Ho Kang, SS (.176 AVG, 0 HR, .458 OPS)
9. Vance Worley, P (0-4, .000 OPS)

Starting Pitchers 

Cubs: Jason Hammel (5.11 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 0.2 fWAR, 12 1/3 IP)

Pirates: Vance Worley (5.84 ERA, 3.97 FIP, 0.1 fWAR, 12/13 IP)

Cubs vs Worley

Starlin Castro: 1-8 (.125 AVG), 0 HR, 2 BB, 6 K, .425 OPS.

Chris Coghlan: 1-4 (.250 AVG), 0 HR, 3 BB, 0 K, .821 OPS.

Chris Denorfia: 0-3, 0 BB, 2 K, .000 OPS.

Dexter Fowler: 2-7 (.286 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 2 K, .571 OPS.

Jonathan Herrera: 1-1, 0 BB, 2.000 OPS.

Miguel Montero: 1-9 (.111 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 1 K, .311 OPS.

Anthony Rizzo: 1-3 (.333 AVG), 1 HR, 0 BB, 1 K, 1.667 OPS.

Jorge Soler: 0-2, 0 BB, 2 K, .000 OPS

Pirates vs Hammel

Pedro Alvarez: 3-17 (.176 AVG), 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 K, .869 OPS.

Francisco Cervelli: 2-3 (.667 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, 1.333 OPS.

Josh Harrison: 1-4 (.250 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 2 K, .750 OPS.

Corey Hart: 1-9 (.111 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 3 K, .222 OPS.

Starling Marte: 2-9 (.222 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 3 K, .444 OPS.

Andrew McCutchen: 6-20 (.300 AVG), 2 HR, 1 BB, 4 K, .983 OPS.

Jordy Mercer: 3-10 (.300 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 2 K, .700 OPS

Gregory Polanco 1-6 (.167 AVG), 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, .333 OPS

Chris Stewart: 2-4 (.500 AVG), 0 HR, 1 BB, 1 K, 1.100 OPS

Neil Walker: 2-9 (.222 AVG), 0 HR, 2 BB, 1 K, .639 OPS.

Who's Hot

After an 0-4 major league debut that included three strikeouts, Kris Bryant has gone 8-for-14 at the dish, with five walks, and just one strikeout. In this Pittsburgh series, Bryant is 5-for-8, with five RBI, two walks, two doubles off the wall, and no strikeouts.

Pirates outfielder Starling Marte has homered in each of the first two games of the series, and now has five homers on the season.

Who's Not

The Cubs roughed up Pirates closer Mark Melancon on Tuesday night, scoring three runs off three hits and two walks. Melancon had a 1.39 ERA in 2013, and 1.70 ERA in 2014, but now has an 8.53 ERA (6 ER in 6 1/3 IP) to start out the 2015 campaign. It's showing up in more than the statistics, too. Melancon's average fastball velocity is down to 88.0 MPH, after being 92.8 last year. And his average cutter velocity (his cutter is his main pitch) is down from 91.6 to 88.9. So, the Pirates may want to look deeper into that and make sure Melancon is healthy before trotting him out there again in the ninth inning.

Brian Schlitter... sigh. Hopefully Joe is done trotting Schlitter out there in meaningful situations, but he hasn't so far this year. I tweeted this last night when Schlitter entered the game:
Schlitter proceeded to allow three earned runs in 2/3 of an inning, blowing the Cubs' 4-2 lead, and denying Travis Wood of a win. Teams figured out after the first half last season that Schlitter basically throws one pitch (a hard sinker), and he will throw it over the middle of the plate even when he's ahead in the count. It's understandable the Cubs called up Schlitter with the injuries to Neil Ramirez and Justin Grimm, but he should only be at the bottom of the bullpen pecking order right now if he's going to be on the roster. Edwin Jackson (who has thrown five scoreless innings and has had a velocity increase out of the bullpen) deserves more important chances than Schlitter at the moment.

This & That

Kris Bryant is still waiting for his first career homer, and came close a few times in this series. It will happen very soon... maybe tonight?

And Addison Russell went 0-for-5 in his debut, so he's still looking for his first hit. We are going to see a lot of firsts in the next week between these two players.

Relatable Tweets

Miguel Montero's Twitter account is gold.


Relatable Video

The most amazing part of Tuesday night's win was this double Kris Bryant hit 375 feet off the right field wall, on an inside pitch.


Just incredible, and a great showcase of Bryant's incredible power and talent. Fangraphs' Jeff Sullivan even wrote a whole article reacting to this at-bat and its awesomeness. Give it a read. 

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Well what do we have here, folks? Oh just another top-3 prospect in baseball joining the Chicago Cubs in less than a week. No biggie.

On Friday it was Kris Bryant making major league debut, and Tuesday night, Addison Russell will do the same thing for the Cubs after it was announced late Monday night that the middle infielder had been called up to the bigs from Triple-A Iowa.

Russell will play second base and bat ninth for the Cubs on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Pirates at PNC Park.

Russell, 21, came into this season rated as a top-5 prospect in baseball by most every publication, including No. 3 by Baseball America, and even No. 2 by Baseball Prospectus. And Baseball Prospectus even ranked Russell ahead of Bryant and Jorge Soler:




Whether you agree with that assessment or not, the fact it can even be debated says a lot about how highly Russell is thought of.

You surely remember that the Cubs acquired Russell, minor league outfielder Billy McKinney (also a top-100 prospect), and pitcher Dan Straily from the Oakland Athletics last Fourth of July, for pitchers Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. The Cubs have since of course signed Jason Hammel again, and the A's ended up trading Samardzija in the offseason to the Chicago White Sox. So, it's pretty easy to see who won this Cubs/A's trade now isn't it?

It was clear to most evaluators which team won the trade when it happened, too. One such example would be Chris Crawford, currently with Baseball Prospectus (and at the time of this tweet, a baseball writer for ESPN):
Now, keep in mind the A's were trying to win a World Series and adding Samardzija and Hammel gave them a better chance at that. Billy Beane knew he had a great chance at a title and took it, even getting out of his comfort zone a bit with what he had to give up in cheap, young talent, to make the team a better title contender. But, make no mistake, Beane was well aware of how good Russell is, and apparently even told Theo Epstein when the two sides agreed to the trade, "You got Barry Larkin (in reference to Russell)":


Source: Peter Gammons

What makes Russell so highly regarded? Well, pretty much everything. He's solid in most every facet of the game, and has an advanced feel for the game.  He's so smooth, both offensively and defensively. Watching him play, you'd never guess he's a 21-year-old with just 11 games at the Triple-A level under his belt. He really looks like a veteran out there.

Russell has a bat with 12-20 homer power, is a career .300 (exactly) hitter in the minors, has a career .376 on-base percentage and .897 OPS in the minors, and is a very good shortstop. Add all of these things up, and you can see how the Barry Larkin and Derek Jeter comparisons make sense.

Peter Gammons tweeted this in Spring Training, and I think it's a perfect way to describe the well-rounded, advanced, steady Russell:

Most evaluators think Russell may already be a better shortstop than Starlin Castro, but Castro is playing tremendously for the Cubs right now, and the Cubs aren't going to mess with Starlin's position in the middle of the season. We can save a shortstop debate for the offseason.

For now, Russell will play next to Castro at second base, after getting just four games of work there in the minors. We saw Javier Baez make the shortstop-to-second base transition rather seamlessly last season, and one would expect the transition to be no different for Russell.

Whatever the case, even if there were to be some hiccups at second base, Russell will be a large upgrade over what the Cubs were getting at the position from Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara through 12 games.

The Cubs could've let Russell get some more Triple-A time, especially to get some reps at second base before having to do it at the major league level, but they are aware he is extremely advanced and gives them a better chance to win right now. And the last part says it all: The Cubs see an opportunity to legitimately compete right now, and they are going to try to do just that.

We are finally seeing the Theo Epstein Cubs and the beginning of what should be a long, long competitive run in Chicago. And the rest of the league knows it.

Let's go to the links for some more Russell material...

Joe Maddon: 'Addison Russell Is Up To Here To Play 2B', Will Likely Bat 9th- (670 The Score)

With Arrival Of Russell, Cubs Continue To Accelerate Towards Competing- (Sahadev Sharma; BP Wrigleyville)

Addison Russell Is Here, And The Cubs Are Going For It- (Tom Ley; Deadspin)

What Do Callups Of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell Say About 2015 Cubs? (Randy Holt; The Outside Corner)

Russell Promotion Continues Cubs' Roster Transformation- (J.J. Cooper; Baseball America)

Addison Russell Is Here, And The Cubs' Super-Infield Is Real- Sorry, Mets fans, but your own local baseball writer is breaking you the news. (Joel Sherman; New York Post)

The Win-Now Move Of Promoting Addison Russell- (Dave Cameron; Fangraphs)



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