He’s so precocious and has such a slick glove that you probably didn’t even notice how dramatically Addison Russell’s batting stance has changed since he debuted in April of 2015. In an effort to deepen your appreciation to a level that approaches my own, let’s watch him morph into the Game 6-grand-slam-hitting, World Series-champion shortstop.
MLB Debut (April 2015)
Note the open stance, high hands, and Marlon Byrd-esque put-the-foot-down-early stride.
Russel had already closed up his stance by the midpoint of the season, though he was still slightly open. His hands are also much lower and he started using a leg kick.
By the end of his rookie year, Russell was sitting back much more on his back side and controlling his leg kick with more balance. He had also raised his hands slightly more than what we saw in July.
In his second year, the developing shortstop didn’t make a major adjustment until June, when he closed up his stance to an orientation that was almost (but not quite) parallel with the batters box. His hands were also lower than than in his late-2015 stance.
Soon after his June adjustment, Russell raised his hands once again and also incorporated a more exaggerated, yet still controlled, leg kick.
There’s another adjustment here, although you have to really pay attention to notice it. This might be a good change-blind experiment for visual neuroscientists. Take a moment to focus on the above GIF to see if you can catch the change. Did you see it?
His feet are now 100% parallel with the batters box.
2016 was a season of adjustments for Addy, and he finished up the regular season by, again, adjusting his hands to a greater starting height.
MLB Debut vs. World Series
Russell is willing to make dramatic changes to his approach and mechanics, which is incredibly hard for a youngster to do at the MLB level. Kudos to the front office and coaching staff for nudging young players to make beneficial adjustments and cultivating a culture in which failing is okay. Much has been made about the talent of Cubs prospects, but the mentality of these young players is crucial when it comes to translating that talent into actual production.
Man, Russell is really good.