Given how well he’s played since being called up, it’s hard to believe Addison Russell is barely 23 years old. Think about that: he’s the same age as a fifth-year college senior, yet he was the starting shortstop for the NL All-Star team and he launched a grand slam in the World Series. Cool as they are, those accomplishments are but anecdotal evidence for his overall growth since those not-so-long-ago days as a prep player and minor leaguer.
Check out this GIF of Russell’s stance and swing from back in 2013 with the Stockton Ports, high-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics.
Note the wide stance and abbreviated jab-step and then compare that to this clip from the NLCS.
The leg-kick is much more exaggerated and the overall motion is more fluid. There’s another pretty significant difference in there too, but I’ll save that observation for after the side-by-side.
Can you see it? If not, here’s a hint: Look at his hands. Up above his ear-flap in the earlier clip, Russell has dropped them down to shoulder/chin height of late and has a little less loop in his swing as a result. We saw a similar dropping of the hands — albeit in more dramatic fashion — in our side-by-side look at Anthony Rizzo.
My favorite part about Russell’s swing is how he follows the path of the ball while still busting it out of the box. Watch him bring that right foot forward as the left comes back, leaving him poised to respect the hell out of at least 90.
And we couldn’t leave you without a comparison of Russell’s true calling card, his defensive prowess.
It’s far from comprehensive, but you can see that he’s bending over at the waist and keeping his butt high in that early clip. He’s also throwing across his body from off of his back foot, neither of which is a good practice. Not that those were necessarily traits of his, mind you, just what I’m seeing from this one snippet. That same built-for-speed sidearm throw we’ve come to recognize is there in both examples, though.
Is there anything else you saw in either past or current versions that I missed or that really struck you? Let’s discuss. And for the full video of Russell plying his trade back in the day, check below:
Check out our other Then/Now posts: