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.
Christian Yelich simply can’t be stopped. The Brewers outfielder (and defending NL MVP) entered Saturday’s game with a league-leading 11 home runs after swatting two against the Dodgers on Friday night, then clubbed another two homers in the first six innings of Saturday’s game.
The first came on a 2-1 pitch from the Dodgers’ Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lobbed a changeup toward the bottom of the strike zone before it was lifted up and out to center field for a solo home run in the third inning.
While Chase Anderson and Alex Claudio held down the fort against the Dodgers’ lineup, Yelich prepared for his second blast in the sixth inning — this one a 421-foot double-decker on a first-pitch curveball from Ryu.
Yelich’s 13 home runs not only gave him a stronger grip on the league’s leaderboard, but helped him tie yet another franchise record, too. Per MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, he’s tied with Prince Fielder for the most home runs hit by a Brewers player in a single month, and sits just one home run shy of tying Álex Rodríguez’s 2007 record for most home runs hit within any club’s first 22 games of the season.
It may be far too early to predict which players will finish first in the MVP races this fall, but there’s no denying Yelich has already set himself apart from the competition. Through Saturday’s performance, he’s batting .361/.459/.880 with a 1.329 OPS and MLB-best 31 RBI across 98 PA so far.