The Chicago Cubs aren’t messing around.

Days after calling up uberprospect Kris Bryant, the Cubs called up phenom Addison Russell on Tuesday, a move that Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported.

Russell was in Pittsburgh for Tuesday night’s game and made his major league debut at second base.

While the news of Russell’s promotion comes as a surprise, there had been growing speculation that the Cubs might turn to the 21-year-old sooner rather than later after shifting him from shortstop to second base late last week. However, few expected him to get the call this soon.

Entering Tuesday, Cubs second basemen ranked last in the major leagues with a dismal .369 OPS and were yet to collect an extra-base hit. And with Javier Baez on the bereavement list (and in the minor leagues), Tommy La Stella on the disabled list and both Jonathan Herrera and Arismendy Alcantara not producing, it was clear some sort of change needed to happen.

The decision to promote Russell, whom the team acquired from the Athletics last July in the Jeff Samardzija trade, on April 21 indicates team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer believe he gives them the best chance to win moving forward. More importantly, it confirms that the organization has its sights set on a postseason berth in 2015.

With Russell, it’s not a question of whether his game is ready for the major leagues. Rather, his opening the season in the minor leagues had more to do with the Cubs’ logjam at both middle infield positions.

Russell had a great showing during spring training in his first camp with the Cubs, as he batted .317/.349/.488 with one home run, four doubles and six RBI in 13 games while playing exceptional defense at shortstop. Yet, with the aforementioned names ahead of him on the organizational depth chart, the 21-year-old found himself assigned to Triple-A Iowa to begin the season.

“I couldn’t tell him what to work on,” manager Joe Maddon said about Russell, per Carrie Muskat of, in late March after the team assigned him to Triple-A Iowa. “He’s that accomplished at that age. I told him, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.'”

And that’s exactly what he did: At the time of his call-up, Russell was batting .318/.326/.477 with one homer and four doubles through 46 plate appearances.

Epstein mentioned last Friday—the day of Bryant’s major league debut—that he was pleased with Russell’s start to the season, but he didn’t hint as to what the future might hold for the youngster.

“He’s playing very well,” Epstein told Jesse Rogers of “He hasn’t been at Triple-A all that long (seven games). But he’s playing great. He’s been having great at-bats, using the whole field. He’s played outstanding at shortstop the first week of the season. He’ll continue to develop at Triple-A, and we’ll see what happens.”

Russell may be young and inexperienced, but there’s little doubt about whether his tools and skills will translate immediately in the major leagues.

Here is my evaluation of Russell’s skills at the plate, from our 100 MLB future stars list April 15:

As a 6’0”, 200-pound right-handed hitter, Russell makes a lot of hard contact thanks to his plus bat speed and innate bat-to-ball skills. And he’s really started driving the ball to all fields with authority over the last year. …

Russell’s combination of plus bat speed and a deep point of contact should produce 20-25 home runs at the highest level, possibly more if he can convert some of his ground-ball outs and strikeouts into fly balls.

Defensively, Russell started just five games at second base for Iowa before his promotion, but there’s every reason to believe he’ll be able to learn the position and make adjustments on the go at the highest level.

For starters, Russell is already a better defender than Starlin Castro, argues’s Keith Law, and it’s long been believed that the former would eventually force the latter off shortstop:

Russell is the best shortstop of the entire group, so his arrival could hasten a chain of position switches with Baez going to third and Bryant to right field. It also could put Starlin Castro, who is showing signs of life with the bat again, on the trade block in the next 12 months, depending on Russell’s health and progress in the minors.

More specifically, Russell’s plus athleticism and quick feet give him incredible lateral range and result in many highlight-reel plays, and he’s become especially slick when charging the ball. In general, he plays the position with a lot of confidence and creativity, two qualities that will aid his transition to second base moving forward.

Now that he’s arrived, it’s a safe bet that Russell will be in the lineup almost every day, because, well, he’s simply that good. Plus, it’s hard to imagine the Cubs front office would promote the 21-year-old at the beginning of a crucial developmental year and not offer him everyday at-bats.

Russell, like teammates Bryant and Jorge Soler, isn’t a finished product, per se, and therefore will inevitably endure some growing pains at the highest level. However, all three players truly are special talents with seemingly infinite potential, and the Cubs are wise to allow their elite prospects to go through their final developmental stages in the major leagues.

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