When the Oakland A’s selected Addison Russell with 11th pick in the 2012 MLB draft, it shocked a lot of people. Not that Russell’s talent wasn’t worthy of the high pick, it was just the guy making the pick has a track record for shying away from prep players early in the draft. Since taking over as GM in 1997, Beane had taken exactly one high school player in the first round: Jeremy Bonderman back in 2001. Maybe it was the new CBA draft rules that swayed him. Maybe it was the lack of depth of college players compared to the prep players this year. Maybe it was the lack of success by his first round picks in recent years.
Or maybe, it was Russell’s incredible talent that gave him a change of heart.
Russell starred at Pace HS in Florida where he hit .368 with eight home runs, 33 RBI and 30 walks over 119 plate appearances as a senior. He hit .500 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI as a junior, .529 with 11 home runs and 39 RBI as a sophomore. He was a regular for Perfect Game’s top summer events, including the prestigious All-American game held in San Diego. He was also a member of the gold-medal winning 2011 U18 Team USA squad that included fellow first-round draft picks David Dahl, Joey Gallo, Albert Almora, Nick Travieso, Gavin Cecchini, Jesse Winker and Walker Weickel. That team was loaded and could one day go down as one of the best teams ever assembled. Russell hit .393 over nine game, with nine RBI, four stolen bases and hit the team’s only home run of the tournament, a grand slam in the bottom of the first inning against Canada in the championship game that put the game away early for Team USA.
The A’s gave him a $2.65MM signing bonus and assigned him to the Arizona League. He made his debut on June 20 and went 1-for-5 with an RBI. He went 0-for-3 the following game with a strikeout. Since then, he has gone 14-for-28 and has been one of the best players from the draft in the early going. He hit his first professional home run on June 24, has five straight multi-hit games and has been displaying an advanced approach at the plate at such a young age. Overall, he is hitting .469 (15-for-32) with 14 runs, a double, two triples, a home run, seven RBI and a slash line of .622/.719/1.341. He is a perfect 6-for-6 in stolen bases and has drawn 12 walks to just six strikeouts. He also had a home run taken away due to a weather suspended game on July 3.
At 6’-2″ and 200 pounds, some wonder if he can remain at shortstop. He does has a terrific glove, good footwork and a strong, accurate arm. His size, however, is the reason scouts believe a move to third base or a corner outfield spot may be necessary as he matures and gets bigger. On the offensive side, he has extremely quick wrists which leads to excellent bat speed. He hits the gaps with ease right now and many believe he will turn into a 30+ home run hitter with a high average down the road. He doesn’t have great speed but has the instincts to be a threat on the base paths, as evidenced by his totals already. Russell is one of those players who makes the game look easy on both sides of the field and is also a leader with highs character on and off of it.
With players like Miles Head, Grant Green and Michael Choice, the A’s have some very good offensive talent coming through the system. Russell is the youngest of them all, and will end up being the best. Anyone who can get Billy Beane to change his way of thinking is someone to root for.