Prior to Friday’s series opener against the San Diego Padres, the Chicago Cubs called up top prospect Kris Bryant, and he debuted to about as much pomp and circumstance as old Wrigley Field had seen in quite some time. While that excitement and fanfare has yet to come anywhere near dissipating, the Cubs are now set to call up another premier prospect, in shortstop Addison Russell.
Russell will be moving over to second base, where he played his last stretch of games for the Iowa Cubs, Chicago’s Triple-A ballclub. He’s expected to be in the starting lineup for the Cubs in Pittsburgh, as they look to take their second consecutive tilt against the Pirates, coming off of a 5-2 victory on Monday night.
It’s a tremendously exciting move, not unlike the call of Bryant prior to the weekend. Both come to the Cubs as top five prospects in all of Major League Baseball, with some scouts going as far as rating Addison Russell above Kris Bryant. Russell brings an all-around bat, plus fielding skills, and above average speed to a Cubs lineup that has seen second base serve as a black hole in the lineup to this point, between “that guy” Jonathan Herrera and the struggling Arismendy Alcantara, as well as Tommy La Stella, who is currently on the disabled list.
There’s no doubt about the excitement that callups like Bryant and Russell bring for the Cubs, and really for baseball as a whole. The Cubs are now set to roll with an infield that features Miguel Montero, Anthony Rizzo, Russell, Starlin Castro, and Kris Bryant. That’s going to be an absurdly fun group to watch moving forward. Javy Baez now has all the time in the world to work out his kinks in Iowa, once he returns from bereavement. And perhaps carve out a new position. Not to mention that Kyle Schwarber could be in a similar position within a year, if not sooner, to take over behind the dish (assuming he sticks at catcher). Oh yeah, Jorge Soler’s out in right field too.
Moving away from the celebratory atmosphere, however, what does this mean for the 2015 Chicago Cubs in terms of their ability to turn in a solid product on the field. More specifically, what does calling up Kris Bryant & Addison Russell indicate about this team’s ability, or at least their perceived ability from within the organization, to compete for a playoff spot, and potentially a title, in 2015? Quite a bit, actually.
In fact, the move for Russell makes a statement perhaps even more than the callup of Kris Bryant did. While the Cubs have been transparent about their ability to compete in the National League Central throughout this rebuild, they are clearly in a position where they feel they can be aggressive in putting the best possible product on the field. Second base has been an area of concern thus far, and the Cubs didn’t hesitate in pulling the trigger to bring Russell aboard, despite limited time above the Double-A level. Does this move happen a year ago? Absolutely not.
With the two marquee moves made by this organization over the winter, in bringing in Joe Maddon to captain the ship and Jon Lester to headline the rotation, you don’t have to be a literal member of the organization to notice that the entire mentality throughout has completely shifted. This is a team that believes they can win, and win now. Such is the case with the team on the field, and those feelings are clearly resonating throughout the front office as well.
Addison Russell will make his debut just four days after Kris Bryant. And 232 days after Jorge Soler. And 253 days after Javier Baez. Now the watch for the likes of C.J. Edwards and Kyle Schwarber and, at some point a bit farther down the line, Albert Almora can begin.
But what the call for Russell indicates is that this is not a team that is hesitant to add the best possible talent to their roster at the earliest possible moment (as long as it doesn’t interfere with service time *insert winking emoji*). Expect the Cubs to continue to be aggressive throughout this season, as they continue their shift from a National League laughingstock, to a potential terror for opposing teams in the very near future.