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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