Over the weekend, Oakland Athletics prospect Addison Russell played in the Futures Game at Citi Field. The exhibition, which is part of MLB‘s All-Star festivities, honors players from all levels of the minor leagues. Russell started at shortstop for Team USA and played five innings, but went 0-for-2.
Baseball America recently tabbed the 6-foot-tall shortstop as the 19th best prospect in all of baseball. Russell was drafted 11th overall in 2012 and signed for a bonus of $2.625 million. Last weekend, I had the chance to speak with Russell at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California, where Russell currently plays for the Ports — one of the Athletics’ Single-A affiliates.
When I asked Russell what his first purchase had been upon signing the deal, the prospect was stumped. Eventually, he suggested his first purchase might have been a pair of Nike socks, and added “the money’s going to be there. I was just really excited to get out there and play.”
This year for the Ports, Russell is hitting .263 with nine home runs, 12 steals and a .819 OPS through 77 games. However, to fully appreciate those stats, you need to keep in mind that Russell is only 19-years-old, which makes him a full three to four years younger than a vast majority of his teammates. At the Futures Game, Russell was the youngest player on Team USA.
What’s more, the Florida native has really turned it on as of late. Russell hit .333 with 11 doubles in June, and in July, he’s batting .313 with five more extra-base hits. When I asked Russell what has been clicking for him, he said “I’ve just mainly been getting back to the old aggressive me.”
Last summer after signing, Russell cruised through three levels of the minor leagues as he hit .369. He also tallied seven home runs, swiped seven bases and had 80 hits in 55 games. If Russell really heats up this summer, and the Athletics feel like getting super aggressive with his development, he could just find his way to Double-A Midland later this season.
At his current pace, Russell should start next season in Double-A at the latest, and could get promoted to Triple-A Sacramento before the end of 2014. The best case scenario then would be for Russell to force his way into the big league picture by the spring of 2015, when he’d be just 21. When I asked Russell if he puts a timeline on getting pushed up a level, he said “I let the managers and owners take care of that.”
As we stood outside the clubhouse on typically scorching summer day in Stockton, Russell explained that “baseball is just a game within a game. I just go out there and have fun.”
In 2013, it seems as though Russell has been having quite a bit of fun.