In one form or another, the future of Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell is uncertain. His off-the-field issues have opened the door for two top prospects.
The 2018 Chicago Cubs season was full of ups and downs. The icing on that proverbial cake? The team’s heartbreaking 13-inning loss in the National League Wild Card game.
But another huge contributor in the team’s eventful season came in the form of Addison Russell and his off-field drama. Over the past 18 or so months, Russell and his now ex-wife split following domestic abuse allegations, he had a child with another woman and then his ex came back into his life in the form of a tell-all blog post that turned his life upside down.
On the field, Russell hit just .250 with a .657 OPS – the lowest of his big league career. It’s hard not to draw some sort of connection between his off-field issues and his poor play on the field. After the league suspended him for 40 games for violating the domestic abuse policy, the future of the former top prospect has become quite murky.
A look at the team’s most recent first rounder
Nico Hoerner was the Cubs’ first-round pick (24th) in the 2018 MLB Draft. Hoerner is a shortstop from Stanford University. He appeared in just 14 games after being drafted, but hit .327 with a 1.021 OPS – a promising start to his professional career.
However, that promise ended early in 2018, thanks to a strained elbow ligament. He’s known for his bat and not necessarily his glove, which is significant because the Cubs’ offense is the part that needs improvement, so it’s crucial that this kid get healthy and develop at a relatively quick pace.
The Cubs have had success with their recent first round picks (Baez in 2011, Almora in 2012, KB in 2013, Schwarber in 2014, and Ian Happ in 2015), so let’s hope Hoerner can not only be as good as these guys have been, but get here in the time they did, as well.
Another top Cubs prospect in the mix
Another key player is Aramis Ademan. Ademan is a 20-year-old shortstop out of the Dominican Republic the Cubs signed back in 2015. Ademan has played in 241 minor league games so far in his career, and he’s hit just .237 with a .319 on-base percentage.
The early returns indicate Ademan is going to be one of those ‘glove first’ types, but scouting reports believe in this kid’s offensive abilities, too.
A defensive stud that hits for average would be huge to add to a Cubs lineup filled with inconsistent offensive performers. At just 20 years old, it’s going to be interesting to see him develop, and the hope is that his bat can blossom and he can be a factor in a Cubs uniform in a few years.
A lot of changes likely in the coming years
In an offseason where the middle infield should be the last thing the Cubs need to worry about, seeing strong development from these two youngsters is crucial for the long-term success of the team.
Russell may not play for this team again, leaving a huge question mark for the future of the shortstop position. One of the pillars this team was rebuilt on could ultimately be knocked down, which is devastating to think about.
If the Cubs want to go after a big name free agent this winter like Bryce Harper, they may not be able to afford to sign another middle infielder. If Russell is, indeed done, either because of trade or outright release (the latter seems unlikely), Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist can fill the void, but how successful could that be?
Zobrist is great because he gets good rest with the lineup depth, and Happ has started to find a home out in the outfield. I’m sure they could adjust, but having a young talent come in to give this team life would be a huge asset. The spotlight is on Hoerner and Ademan, and it’s Cubs’ fans hope that they can shine sooner rather than later.