If I said “quick, name me five Yankee prospects”, who would you name?
Jesus Montero would probably be the first name to escape your lips, and then Austin Jackson, too. After that, you might choose Mark Melancon, or maybe Austin Romine and then Slade Heathcott or Andrew Brackman.
One name that probably doesn’t crack your list is Kevin Russo…but maybe it should.
After all, he’s hitting .337 with a .413 OBP and an OPS over .850 (views stats) at AAA Scranton.
Perhaps more encouraging is that since 2007, he has posted a steady improvement in all offensive categories.
Russo came to my attention at Sunday’s Scranton game–he was hitting .340 as of that day.
I later asked Thunder beat writer Mike Ashmore, who got a chance to cover Russo when he was at AA, and he offered this:
“Russo is a hard working, versatile infielder whose stock really rose last season. He’s solid defensively, but made a lot of progress with his bat, and seemed to come out of nowhere to earn the attention of the Yankees brass with an invite to the Arizona Fall League. He also overcame a freak injury, missing some time after requiring surgery to fix a facial fracture suffered while attempting to field a routine ground ball during batting practice. Russo profiles as a utility infielder who might be able to crack a big league lineup on an everyday basis if he can develop a little more pop in his bat.”
All right, so a utility infielder might not be as glamorous as, say, a potential all star (like Montero), but coming out of nearly nowhere to make the big leagues would be impressive enough in its own right.
“”Well, I think you guys had one in Kevin Russo here. He’s made a lot of progress and he’s done a good job. I don’t know if that’s under the radar anymore, he’s hitting .330-something in Triple-A. But he wasn’t a big name guy. Kevin’s a guy that people should really keep their eye on. He can play and he’s performed.”
The thing is, when everyone’s comparing prospects to Jesus Montero, everyone else seems to take a step back–but that is more illustrative of how good Montero is than anything else.
Russo, however, really is an under-the-radar type. Night in and night out he’s hitting, but because he doesn’t have a ton of power (he’s slugging .439), he’s easy to miss.
Russo’s not that young–he’s 24–but he’s still young enough that he’s still likely to improve. He’s stolen 28 bases so he has some speed, and with a walk and strikeout ratio that’s close to equal (42 to 48), if he does as Ashmore suggests–and develops some more pop in his bat–he could have a very nice career.
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