The Rundown: Addison Russell Starts at Second Base, Cubs Prospects All Over BA’s Southern League List

The biggest question I have about the Cubs’ future is: Assuming no trades are made, if Starlin Castro, Javier Baez and Addison Russell are all in the big leagues, who plays shortstop?

It’s pretty clear that Baez won’t be playing short as long as Castro is around. But what about Russell? Would he bump Castro to third?

It may not be any indication of the Cubs’ plans, but Russell started at second base for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League on Monday. He went 1-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in Mesa’s 2-1 loss.

My guess would be Russell plays third, with Castro at short and Baez at second. That assumes Kris Bryant is moved to the outfield, which is no sure thing. Bryant sticking at third complicates things further in the infield.

Dan Vogelbach hit in front of Russell but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Jacob Hannemann, starting in right field, also went 0-for-4. Cubs position prospects have gotten off to a slow start so far in the AFL.

On the mound, Zach Cates pitched 0.1 innings, giving up nothing. Cates was the “other” guy in the Anthony Rizzo/Andrew Cashner trade. The right-hander split time between High-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee this past season, with mixed results.

Baseball America’s Top 20 Southern League prospects

Cubs prospects littered Baseball America’s list of the top Southern League (Double_A) prospects. Kris Bryant, who hit .355/.458/.702 with 22 home runs in 68 games for the Smokies, tops the list.

Addison Russell is No. 2 on the list. Having the top two prospects on the list is pretty awesome. But it doesn’t end there.

At No. 5 is RHP C.J. Edwards, who has high upside but missed a majority of 2014 with a shoulder injury.

Outfielder Albert Almora comes in at 18. Almora has dipped a bit on Cubs prospect lists over the past year, but the 2012 first-round pick (sixth overall) could be a major piece of the Cubs puzzle at some point. Of course, he also may flame out.

Other notes

* Jon Roegele from the Hardball Times looks at how the strike zone has expanded in recent years. In fact, this year saw the biggest single-year increase since the PITCHf/x pitch-tracking system started, according to Roegele.

The Athletics’ Josh Donaldson replied on Twitter about the article and said this year’s strike zone was the biggest in 10 years.

With pitchers throwing harder these days, along with increasing strike zones, no wonder offensive production is down and strikeouts are up.

* Mark Gonzales writes about the Cubs’ need for left-handed hitting, and mentions how recently acquired Billy McKinney could help address that issue. Included in the Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, McKinney hit well after coming over to the Cubs (.301/.390/.432 in 51 games with High-A Daytona).

At 20 years old, McKinney’s a guy who could be part of a “second wave” of Cubs prospects. I’m looking forward to seeing if he can keep up the quality hitting he showed in Daytona.

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