The Cubs are convinced that young Addison Russell will thrive at shortstop, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick writes. Russell is just four years removed from anchoring the Pace High School Patriots’ starting infield, but they believe that he is mature beyond his years.”He’s got a good head on his shoulders,” Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said of the 22-year-old. “He’s our youngest player, but he might be the one we worry about the least.” Russell was the No. 11 overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Athletics and figured to be a big part of their future until he was shipped to Chicago in the Jeff Samardzija trade. In his first big league season, Russell slashed .242/.307/.389 as he adjusted to major league pitching. This year, the Cubs are hoping that the shortstop will provide them with a line closer to the combined .295/.350/.508 he posted at the Class A+ and Double-A levels in 2014.
Here’s more out of the NL Central:
- The Cubs are stacked with position players and they have great trade chips if they want to go out and add a pitcher, MLB.com’s Phil Rogers writes. After signing Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist this witer, the Cubs have a bit of a logjam as they try to get playing time for Kyle Schwarber, Jorge Soler, and Javier Baez. On top of that, the team has even more young hitters in the pipeline, so they can afford to work from their surplus.
- Cardinals prospect Luke Weaver is impressing early in Spring Training, as Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com writes. Weaver, ranked as one of St. Louis’ top prospects in 2016, projects to open this season at Double-A Springfield. Weaver has been working with veteran right-handers Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, Langosch notes, picking up tips on his curveball and release point. “We always try and figure out how to put some of the young players with guys they can watch and emulate a little bit,” Matheny explained to Langosch. “We just thought Luke would be one of the guys who would benefit from not just the spoken, but the watching the habits that have become second nature for Adam.”
- Reds Rule 5 picks Chris O’Grady and Jake Cave are eager to show what they can do in camp, as Mark Sheldon of MLB.com writes. It’s been nine years since the Reds last successfully carried a Rule 5 pick all season, Sheldon notes, when the club had a pair of excellent Rule 5 pickups in right-hander Jared Burton and outfielder Josh Hamilton. Cave, selected out of the Yankees organization, spoke to Sheldon about the importance of maximizing an opportunity with Cincinnati, as the Yankees have a fairly notable logjam in the outfield, whereas the Reds have a clearer path to at-bats. Manager Bryan Price spoke to Sheldon about each player’s chances, noting that video alone of O’Grady on the mound has impressed him, while Cave faces a challenge going from an everyday role in the minors to either a platoon situation or a reserve that would move all over the outfield.