Looking for someone who could be a defensive difference-maker in the postseason? How about Chicago Cubs infielder Addison Russell?
Russell might not have hit to expectations this season, but he's been fantastic in the field, and we're recognizing that by making him our Defensive Player of the Month for September.
Russell's nine defensive runs saved ranked second in baseball, trailing only Jason Heyward's 10. They were one more than defensive wizard and fellow shortstop Andrelton Simmons.
It hasn't mattered where the Cubs put Russell this season, whether it be second base or shortstop. He's performed remarkably well at both. Entering Thursday he ranked fourth in the majors in defensive runs saved for the season at both second base and shortstop. He might not win a Gold Glove, but he will be a legitimate candidate for The Fielding Bible's annual award for multi-positional excellence.
What Russell has done best, regardless of where he's been put, is cover the ground in the middle of the diamond. Baseball Info Solutions' defensive charting rates him as highly above average at fielding balls hit to the right of where the second baseman would traditionally play, and highly above average at fielding balls to the left of where the shortstop would traditionally play.
The highlight-reel play for Russell this month was a game-ending diving stop and flip to get a force play on Stephen Piscotty's ground-ball, preserving a one-run win.
Cubs radio broadcaster Ron Coomer was effusive in his praise of Russell's defensive work and anticipation on that play, and the team's coaching staff concurred with that assessment.
"He's fundamentally sound," said Cubs infield coach Gary Jones. "He works his tail off. He's in tune with every pitch. His preparation, pitch by pitch, is as good as I've seen. His first step quickness [is good]. The quickness is a part of it, but it's the anticipation that helps that quickness."