Cubs see Addison Russell as the next big prospect on the verge


Cubs see Addison Russell as the next big prospect on the verge

The obsession with what’s next means Addison Russell Watch starts right now for Cubs fans and the Chicago media.

The Kris Bryant Show debuted on Friday at Wrigley Field, leaving Russell back at Triple-A Iowa as the next mega-prospect on the verge.

People around the Cubs say Russell is the real deal, a potential franchise shortstop who will force big questions about what to do with Starlin Castro, a three-time All-Star who’s still only 25.

This is a good problem for an organization that thinks it is built to be a contender for years to come.

[MORE CUBS: The wait is over - Kris Bryant arrives at Wrigley Field]

When the Cubs sent Bryant, Russell and Javier Baez down to minor-league camp in late March, Joe Maddon didn’t know what to say to a 21-year-old shortstop with such a polished all-around game. The manager came up with nothing, except for giving Russell the keep-doing-what-you’re-doing message.

“He’s going to continue to develop at Triple-A and we’ll see what happens,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But certainly the No. 1 thing we like to see in our players before they move up is dominating a level. And he’s off to a good start.”

Russell entered this season as the No. 3 prospect on Baseball America’s list – or two spots behind Bryant – and with only three games above the Double-A level on his resume.

[MORE CUBS: Worth the wait - Cubs promote Kris Bryant for Wrigley Field debut]

The noise will get louder with Russell starting to play second base and hitting .355 (11-for-31) with seven RBI through his first seven games at Iowa.

“He hasn’t been at Triple-A all that long, but he’s playing great,” Epstein said. “He’s been having really good at-bats, using the whole field. He played outstanding at shortstop the first week of the season, made like four highlight plays.

“He’s probably going to continue to play second base through the weekend and we’ll see how that goes. But we’ve had a lot of injuries in the infield. We’ve had to shuffle some things.”

Beyond the health concerns, the Cubs haven’t been getting much production out of their second basemen. Arismendy Alcantara began the season on a 1-for-19 skid that makes you wonder when they might want to shake things up again.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Gear up, Cubs fans!]

Maddon pushed hard for Baez to make the team out of spring training, believing his up-the-middle defense, speed and flashes of power could carry him until things started to click at the plate.

Baez hasn’t rejoined the Iowa club yet after the death of his sister last week. Epstein said: “There’s still some things for him to deal with – with his family – before he comes back."

The Oakland A’s left spring training last year thinking Russell could be a difference-maker in a pennant race – before he tore his hamstring and became a headliner in the blockbuster Jeff Samardzija trade on the Fourth of July.

The Cubs have to be looking at Russell and seeing the same upside for what should be a very interesting summer on the North Side.

Cubs Talk Podcast: It's so good to be with the Director of Morale

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: It's so good to be with the Director of Morale

Luke Stuckmeyer and producer Eric Strobel welcome Frederic, aka the Cubs' unofficial Director of Morale. Fred takes us through the origins and growth of his fandom and social media persona (1:30), before discussing how Jake Arrieta's dominance announced the Cubs as contenders (7:30) and the now-ubiquitous hard hats in the bleachers (16:00). Finally, Fred and the guys talk about this year's team, including the lack of strikeout stuff on the pitching staff (22:30) and the unicorn that is Javy Baez (30:00). 

You can listen to the entire thing right here or in the embedded player below:

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Cubs map out next steps for closer Craig Kimbrel

Craig Kimbrel is one step closer to joining the Cubs bullpen.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, Kimbrel will join Triple-A Iowa and make his first appearance on Tuesday, against the Sacramento River Cats.

While the Cubs officially signed him on June 7, Kimbrel has yet to pitch in actual games. The 31-year-old has been in a condensed spring training program at the Cubs' Arizona complex, throwing live batting practice on both Thursday and Saturday.

The Cubs haven't revealed an official timeline for Kimbrel to join the 25-man roster, as they are basing things off of how he feels. The expectation is he will pitch in about five games with Iowa before joining the Cubs. However, both Theo Epstein and Kimbrel acknowledged how the goal isn't to rush the closer back into MLB action.

"We're not gonna rush it," Epstein said. "It's gonna be tempting to get him here as soon as possible, but we're trying to plan this thing the right way so that he could be in a position to succeed not just immediately but in October. That's gonna be our guiding principle as we go."

"We sat down and put a gameplan together — something to work off of," Kimbrel said. "But at the end of the day, it's based off how I recover, how I get ready. This isn't about getting back on the field as fast as I can. This is about being the best that I can be in October and down the stretch and doing what I came here to do for this team."

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