Addison Russell has made a big impact on fans during his short major league career, dazzling fans with acrobatic defensive play and providing a decent amount of power to a solid lineup. He has plenty of potential and has shown the ability to be a big factor at the plate, but can frustrate fans with his inconsistent play on offense. The young shortstop for the Chicago Cubs is undoubtedly loaded with potential but his overall numbers aren’t quite there yet. While they are hoping for more from Russell this year, the current product is something that Cubs fans have seen and loved before.
The numbers that Russell has put up over his first three big league seasons draws a direct comparison to Alex Gonzalez, the former Cubs shortstop (not the Marlin from the same time). Both of them are low average hitters who provide solid power for their position, and they were both highly regarded players on defense as well.
Gonzalez played in the major leagues for 13 seasons, and a little over two of those years were spent with the Cubs. He posted a career high with 20 home runs in the magical 2003 season, although it came with a .228/.295/.409 slash line that season. And even though most fans now remember him for his error in Game 6 of the 2003 NLDS, he provided excellent defense for the team most of the year.
The two shortstops began their careers in very similar ways. With the Toronto Blue Jays, Gonzalez put up a .239/.307/.392 slash line over his first three full seasons, and he also averaged 105 hits, 24 doubles, 123 walks, and 12 home runs per season over that span. Russell’s totals over his first three seasons include a .240/.312/.408 slash line, and he has averaged 108 hits, 25 doubles, 126 walks, and 15 home runs per year.
Overall the stat lines for their first three years are very identical, but there are a couple of noticeable differences between them. Russell has 51 more RBI than Gonzalez did in his first three years, but that is mostly because Russell put up 95 RBI in 2016 hitting in the middle of the Cubs’ loaded lineup. Gonzalez’s career high was 76 in 2001, and it was the only time he hit the 70 RBI mark. But Gonzalez has the edge on the basepaths with 35 stolen bases to Russell’s 11 in that span, and that can be attributed to manager Joe Maddon not wanting to risk getting extra outs on the bases.
If we look at each player’s 162 game averages, the results continue to match up between the two players. Gonzalez’s averages would put him at a .243/.302/.391 slash line with 140 hits, 32 doubles, and 16 home runs. Again, Russell remains close with his .240/.312/.408 slash line with 130 hits, 30 doubles, and 18 home runs. Both players have played multiple positions over their respective careers, but their fielding percentages at the shortstop position are nearly one and the same. Gonzalez owned a career .975 fielding percentage there – including a .984 mark in 2003 – and Russell is right up there with a .974 fielding percentage at the position.
I am not saying that Addison Russell is the next Alex Gonzalez (yet), but the numbers over the beginning of their careers are very comparable. Gonzalez was a key member of the 2003 playoff team and played a large part of their success, just like Russell has done each of the last three years with the team’s positive performance over the last three years. If Russell doesn’t maximize his full potential and remains at his current level of production, Gonzalez would likely the best player to compare him to.
At least he isn’t Ronny Cedeno.
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