Cubs: Joe Maddon sticking with Addison Russell as No. 9 hitter


Cubs: Joe Maddon sticking with Addison Russell as No. 9 hitter

MILWAUKEE — Joe Maddon doesn’t believe the baseball world is flat, so the Cubs manager will keep batting Addison Russell ninth. 

Russell’s 12-game hitting streak ended during Sunday’s 3-2, 11-inning loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. He’s hit safely in 14 of his first 17 big-league games, getting more and more comfortable at this level and showing the natural talent that made him Baseball America’s No. 3 prospect heading into this season.  

“This is a young player we’re trying to break in right now,” Maddon said. “I’m trying to optimize his opportunities. And I think by him hitting ninth, the only stigma attached to that is the fat little kid that used to play right field and hit ninth on the playground.

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“That’s where the stigma’s attached to it. It’s nothing to do with here. The batting order is a circular situation. It’s not the Columbus batting order that falls off the face of the earth. It keeps coming around and around and around.”

Russell is the youngest player in the National League at 21 years and 107 days and playing out of position at second base after rising so quickly through the minors as a shortstop. He’s also striking out about 43 percent of the time.

Russell has still generated two homers, six doubles and seven RBI since making his debuting on April 21. According to team historian Ed Hartig, the most recent Cubs rookie to hit safely in more than 12 straight games was Jerome Walton, who set a major-league rookie record with his 30-game hitting streak in 1989. 

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last NL player to have a 12-game hitting streak (or better) exclusively out of the nine-hole was Pittsburgh Pirates left-handed pitcher Wilbur Cooper in 1924 (16 consecutive games).

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Maddon wasn’t even aware Russell had a hitting streak until a reporter mentioned it to him during his pregame media session in the dugout.

“Here’s what you have to understand about him hitting ninth,” Maddon said. “He’s not going to see any better pitches than he’s going to see hitting ninth. I don’t want to put him in the one-hole or the two-hole right now. I don’t want to lay that on him.

“If you put him seventh — or put him eighth and put the pitcher ninth — he’s going to see (fewer quality pitches). The whole game plan, in my mind’s eye, by hitting him ninth, is twofold: To be the second leadoff hitter, in a sense, with a lot less pressure on you (and) the potential to see better pitches, because 1, 2 and 3 are hitting behind you.

“That’s where people are failing to think this all the way through. They just see the pitcher hitting eighth: ‘Oh my God, hit the pitcher ninth, because it’s been done like that for the last 150 years.’ (But) by him hitting ninth, he’s going to see better stuff to hit.”


Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Cubs reportedly demote Carl Edwards Jr. to Triple-A Iowa, will call up Rowan Wick

Carl Edward Jr.'s return to Chicago didn't last long. 

Three days -- and one appearance -- after being called up from Triple-A, Edwards is reportedly headed back to Iowa: 

His lone appearance over the weekend came in the last inning of Sunday's 5-1 loss to the Padres, facing four batters before getting the last out. He allowed one earned run on one hit, but both walked and hit a batter; the two runners he inherited would score as well.

It's been a rough season for righty, who's spent much of the year on the IL or in Iowa. Back in early June, he was placed on the 10-day injured list with a left thoracic strain. When healthy, he's pitched 15.1 innings to the tune of a 5.87 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. 

Up in his place is Rowan Wick, who himself has seen time in both Chicago and Iowa this season. Wick's latest stretch in Triple-A has been lights out: 

Cubs trade rumors: Is Arizona's Jarrod Dyson on the team's radar?

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Cubs trade rumors: Is Arizona's Jarrod Dyson on the team's radar?

As we get closer and closer to the July 31 trade deadline, it's becoming clear that the Cubs are firmly in the market for outfield help. 

The first name connected to the team was Detroit right fielder Nick Castellanos, whose prowess against left-handed pitching would significantly buoy a team that's struggled against lefties thus far. 

Now, it's Arizona's Jarrod Dyson who is reportedly on Chicago's radar. On Monday morning, a piece written by The Athletic's Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma details the Cubs' interest in Dyson: 

The Cubs have been interested in Dyson (who has 21 stolen bases and a wRC+ of 86 this season) at previous points in his career and have always liked his skillset. If Dyson is moved, it will likely come closer to the July 31 deadline, giving the Diamondbacks more time to evaluate where they stand this year.

On the surface, Dyson's fit with the Cubs is an interesting one. The conventional wisdom is that for all of Albert Almora's defensive abilities, his offensive production simply doesn't warrant every day starts. This season has been rough for Almora, and he's currently slashing .239/.275/.384 with a .659 OPS, adding up to a career-worst wRC+ (67). As Mooney and Sharma point out, that wRC+ is the 3rd-worst among all players with at least 400 at-bats this year. The contact peripherals aren't much better, with a Hard Hit % and Average Exit Velocity both in the bottom 8% of qualified hitters; his current fWAR (0.0) would suggest he is quite literally the definition of replacement-level. 

With all that said, Dyson's numbers this year have ... not been much better? He's hit .254/.335/.369 with a .704 OPS in 24 less at-bats than Almora has. Dyson's wRC+ (87) is certainly an improvement over Almora's, but nothing to write home about either. In fact, the Statcast profiles for both players look almost identical. First is Almora's, and then comes Dyson:

Like Mooney and Sharma mention, it'd be a platoon move. While their overall stats look the same, Almora's been better against lefties, and Dyson righties, through their careers:

Dyson career vs. RHP: .257/.324/.360 with a .685 OPS (87 wRC+)
Almora career vs RHP: .272 /.303/.398 with a .701 OPS (83 wRC+)

Dyson career vs. LHP: .226 /.309/.272 with a .580 OPS (63 wRC+)
Almora career vs LHP: .286/.335/.420 with a .755 OPS (101 wRC+)

While Dyson isn't going to solve the Cubs' outfield issues on his own, he is more consistently playable against right handed pitching in a way that Almora -- despite some weird reverse splits this season -- has typically not been. It's also worth noting that he'd help solve the Cubs' leadoff issues, as 217 of his 252 at-bats have come from the top. Dyson would give the Cubs a jolt of bench speed, and while stealing bases isn't in this team's DNA, having one of the game's fastest players available as a pinch-runner is obviously a huge advantage in a pennant or postseason run. Acquiring a pinch runner in the latter half of the season has been a staple of the Theo Epstien era, so this falls in-line with what we've seen in the past. 

The Cubs probably have bigger fish to fry, and it doesn't sound like the front-office is solely in the market for platoon outfielders that can pinch run. Production concerns aside, though, Dyson's making $3.5 million and will be an unrestricted free agent when the season ends - so in theory there's a low-risk fit for the Cubs.