Well folks, it looks like the days of El Mago playing shortstop everyday are finally coming to an end soon. But let me tell you, Javier Baez did a hell of a job out there. He was making a highlight play seemingly every game (sometimes twice), and he also hit the ball very well during this important stretch of games, slashing .299/ .351/ .526 with an OPS of .877 and a WRC+ score of 121 since Addison Russell went on the DL on August 3rd. He was nothing short of magical (see what I did there?).
But now, our starting shortstop is set to return from a foot injury that has kept him out for over a month. According to Cub’s writer Mark Gonzalez, Russell had another full day of activity today, including hitting in the cages and running the bases, without any setbacks of any kind. Gonzalez also said it appears Russell is on track to return early next week, possibly in either the Tampa or Milwaukee series. This is fantastic news, given that less than a week ago it appeared to be a possibility that Russell wouldn’t return until 2018.
Russell appeared to be breaking out in the second half, hitting .306 with a WRC+ of 125 and an OPS of .903 in 65 plate appearances from the all star break until his injury. In addition to his bat finally coming around, let us not forget that he is one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, and having him and Baez up the middle again will be something special to watch, especially with the way Javy has played in Addy’s absence.
One more small note on Russell’s return, don’t expect him to jump in and play every day. He has missed a month and a half, and with the minor leagues already finished up, don’t be surprised if his first few appearances come 3-5 innings at a time to help get him reacclimated to the speed of the game.
One thing I am not looking forward to, however, are the “Bench Addy, we already have Javy!” hot takes. I am the biggest Javy fan there is, but Addison Russell is the better shortstop. He’s more polished, more experienced, and more consistent defensively. Be prepared for people to forget about how great Addy is in the field.
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