Addison Russell

Baseball Prospectus takes shot at Addison Russell in their latest annual

Baseball Prospectus takes shot at Addison Russell in their latest annual

Addison Russell is no longer with the Cubs and he hasn’t yet found a new home in baseball, but he hasn’t escaped being on the receiving end of some tough shots.

Baseball Prospectus, which produces a book each year with team and player capsules, breakdowns and projections, took such a shot. Their blurb for Russell is short and direct.


“The 24-hour national domestic violence hotline number is 800-799-7233.”

Russell was infamously suspended for domestic abuse late in 2018. He returned to the Cubs in 2019, but was not tendered a contract after the season, making him a free agent.

Russell hasn’t found a new landing place with spring training already underway. With this still hanging over his head, it’s no secret as to why.

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Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game

Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game

By one metric, Javy Baez is the top defensive infielder in Major League Baseball.

Yet somehow, he wasn't even a Top 3 finalist for the National League Gold Glove Award at shortstop.

Infield Outs Above Average is a new metric by Statcast released Wednesday to measure the overall impact of an infielder. If the OAA stat seems familiar, it's because it has been around as a way to evaluate MLB outfielders over the last couple seasons.

By this new stat, Baez is the top defensive infielder in the game, coming in with a +19 OAA. That makes him a bit better than Nolan Arenado. The entire Top 10 list is as follows:

Baez: +19
Arenado: +17
Andrelton Simmons: +16
Nick Ahmed: +16
Trevor Story: +15
Matt Chapman: +14
Paul DeJong: +13
Matt Olson: +12
Jose Iglesias: +12
Freddy Galvis: +12

Ahmed won the NL Gold Glove for shortstop, with DeJong and Story coming in behind him. All three players find themselves on this list, so they were all worthy candidates, but Baez was robbed of inclusion as a Gold Glove finalist.

For more on infield OAA, read Mike Petriello's fantastic write-up at MLB.com, but essentially it boils down to how many batted balls Baez turned into outs — including on plays he should not have made. That means either by virtue of his exceptional range, arm strength or break on the ball. The metric also takes into account the baserunner's speed on a given play or where the defender was located in the field, so it factors in all the outs Baez has converted from the outfield grass, either on the left or right side of the infield while serving as the rover on shifts for the Cubs.

At the end of the day, this is just a fancy number to confirm what Cubs fans saw with their eyes all 2019: Baez is an elite defensive shortstop and one of the most exciting players in the game even when he's not in the batter's box or on the basepaths. 

As for the rest of the Cubs infielders, here's how the list looks in OAA:

Addison Russell: +5
David Bote: +3
Kris Bryant: +2
Anthony Rizzo: -3
Daniel Descalso: -4

As a whole, the Cubs had the fifth-best infield OAA in baseball (+20), but that was obviously buoyed by Baez's contributions. The St. Louis Cardinals ranked first in baseball (+42 OAA), with the Rockies, Astros and Angels also ahead of the Cubs.

Entering 2020, the Cubs look to expand upon that number. They won't have Russell, but currently have every other player on the list and it's unknown how much Descalso will even play given Nico Hoerner's eventual addition to the infield on a regular basis. Baez may also improve upon his overall defensive metrics, too, if he can avoid injury (remember, he missed all of September) and in his second full season at shortstop.

Cubs 'open-minded' on where Nico Hoerner fits in 2020 equation

Cubs 'open-minded' on where Nico Hoerner fits in 2020 equation

The MLB offseason is a month old, but we still don't have any clear answers on what the 2020 Cubs roster will look like.

So much of that depends on the trade market and who Theo Epstein's front office deals away and what they get in return. 

One of the other major contributing factors is Nico Hoerner and how the Cubs view him. Will the impressive rookie make the Opening Day roster? Will he see more work at second base or center field or both? 

At some point next year, it seems likely Hoerner will be the everyday second baseman with Javy Baez manning shortstop. That path was made simpler when the Cubs parted ways with Addison Russell earlier this week. 

But will the Cubs want Hoerner to start the year in Triple-A Iowa — a level he skipped over in September when he was tasked with filling in for the injured Baez — to continue his development?

"It's a great question and I don't think one that I can answer that well right now," Cubs GM Jed Hoyer said last month. "All I can say is that his timetable obviously was faster than we ever expected being in a pennant race and necessity of Javy going down and Addy going down, it sort of forced our hand to do that. And Dixon Machado was injured. We put Nico in a really challenging spot and he couldn't have responded better. His makeup, competitiveness is fantastic; his poise was really impressive. 

"Clearly he exceeded our expectations in that spot. What that means going forward, I can't answer at this point. But I think it's safe to say we hold him in incredibly high regard and whatever number of games in September that he played in — I'm still incredibly impressed that he can go from being at home to starting the next night and performing the way he did."

The 22-year-old former first-round pick hit .282 with 3 homers and 17 RBI in his first 20 big-league games while playing solid defense at shortstop and earning praise from veterans in the clubhouse for his energy, work ethic and the spark he provided the team down the stretch. 

If Hoerner was a shoo-in to make the Opening Day roster, that would change the equation for the Cubs this winter as they look to build their 26-man squad. But 20 games isn't a huge sample size and he may well need more time down in the minor leagues to refine his offensive approach and defensive versatility.

"We haven't figured that out yet," Epstein said at the GM Meetings. "I think you could make strong arguments on both sides, whether he should be part of the club on Opening Day or a little bit more seasoning [in the minors]. I think a lot will depend on what else we do and yeah, sure, what type of spring training you have might be a factor as well. We're not at the point where we're ready to make that decision yet, but we're open-minded."

As it stands right now, the Cubs' position player group is pretty locked down everywhere but second base and center field. Barring a trade that opens up another hole on the roster, those are the two spots Epstein's front office will look to upgrade this winter after subpar production in 2019. If they felt confident enough in Hoerner to pencil him in as the starting second baseman, that would erase a need and allow the front office to focus on outfield and the pitching staff.

Hoerner might also be a factor in the center field equation. He got some work there in the minors last season and started a game in center on the final weekend of the MLB season in St. Louis.

The Cubs still have Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ on the roster to play center field and they can also shift Jason Heyward over there if there's a corner outfielder that makes sense to add this winter. 

At second base, there's still a long list of names even after Russell's departure — David Bote, Daniel Descalso, Tony Kemp, Robel Garcia and maybe even Happ could be in the second base picture. 

Hoerner has the most upside out of that group (the Cubs don't view Happ's long-term position on the infield), but the rookie is also currently the top backup to Baez at shortstop and figures to play multiple positions under new manager David Ross.

"He needs more reps," Hoyer said. "Obviously there's rough edges that we can smooth out there, but the fact that he's willing to [play multiple positions] says a lot about who he is as a competitor. I think he has a chance to be good at one position, but he also has a chance to move around the diamond and really help us in a lot of ways that way, too.

"He's not a finished product and defensively, he'll continue to get better and better. Defense in the big leagues is something that keeps improving with instruction and reps. But I thought he handled himself really well."

Offensively, Hoerner is exactly the type of hitter the Cubs are looking for as they attempt to diversify the lineup. He is contact-oriented with elite hand-eye coordination and an ability to battle with two strikes and put the ball in play. Hoerner also uses the whole field and has a line-drive approach — skills that should help an offense that has too often been all-or-nothing the last couple seasons.

That all adds up to Hoerner slotting in as an important long-term piece of the puzzle and the Cubs eventually handing him the keys to an everyday role, though that might not be from Day 1 of the 2020 season.