Oakland’s Addison Russell deemed AZL’s top prospect

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Shortstop Addison Russell, the 11th overall pick in the 2012 draft, beat out a couple of higher profile Cubs to be named the Arizona League’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America on Monday.

Cubs outfielders did claim the second and fourth spots on the list, which ranked the top 20 prospects from the 13-team league. Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in the draft, was ranked No. 2 after hitting .347/.363/.480 with one homer in his 18 games in Arizona. Cuban defector Jorge Soler was ranked fourth despite hitting .241/.328/.389 with two homers in his 14 games there. Soler looked better after moving up to the Midwest League, where he hit .338/.398/.513 in 20 games.

League MVP Joey Gallo, who was drafted by the Rangers 39th overall this year, claimed the third spot. The third baseman hit .293/.435/.733 with 18 homers in 43 games.

The 18-year-old Russell hit .415/.488/.717 with six homers and nine steals in his 26 games in Arizona. There’s some skepticism about whether he’ll remain at short or require a move to third, but the A’s have to be thrilled with the way he hit in his introduction to the pros. He’ll probably open next year in low-A ball in the Midwest League.

Dominic Smith likely to start the season at Triple-A

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Following the Mets’ recent signing of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports that fellow first baseman Dominic Smith is likely to start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas. That is contingent, of course, on the veteran Gonzalez’s ability to remain healthy, which isn’t a guarantee.

Smith, 22, struggled last season, batting .198/.262/.395 in 183 plate appearances. The Mets have also expressed concern about Smith’s conditioning. Puma reported in November that as a result of better dietary choices and a daily exercise regimen, Smith had already lost 11-12 pounds.

Gonzalez, 35, didn’t exactly have a stellar 2017 campaign. Along with battling back issues, Gonzalez hit .242/.287/.355 in 252 PA. That the Mets’ Plan A is to go with Gonzalez over Smith says something about their confidence in Smith.