The Potential Tools: 60 FB, 60 SL, 50 CH, 50 Command
Strengths: Long, projectable frame; room for good strength and weight to handle starter’s workload; low ¾ arm slot; repeats arm slot with plus arm speed; FB works 92-to-95 mph; arm slot allows for heavy sinking action; downhill plane; slider flashes plus; sharp bite and tilt; darting action away from RHH; changeup is potentially average; sinking action; arm action and hand strength will allow him to turn it over; work in progress; has feel for pitching and sequencing; intelligent on the mound; shows present average control; future command projects to be average.
Weaknesses: Arm can get offline; long arm action; inconsistent landing point currently; mechanical profile needs cleaning up; present CH and future projection are far apart; present command and future projection are far apart; many question his ability to start with his current delivery and arm slot; limited pro experience.
Role Ceiling: 55; #3 SP.
Risk: Extreme; delivery adjustments/strength needed; raw present grades; limited pro innings.
Summary: In the discussion for the best prep starter in the 2015 MLB draft, Russell was picked at the back end of the first round by the Royals. He features a unique low ¾ arm slot and the athleticism to repeat his delivery and arm slot with plus arm speed. His fastball works in the low-to-mid 90s with heavy sink and downhill plane, making it a projected plus pitch that has the ability to miss bats at the highest level. As an amateur, Russell predominately used his fastball/slider combination to beat hitters, but he’ll need to develop his changeup to consistently get major league hitters out. That being said, from his arm slot, and with the ability he’s shown to turn over a changeup out in front, the pitch projects to be average.
With his mechanical flaws and longer arm action, there are some concerns Russell’s future role might be a reliever, but with the athleticism he brings and ability to repeat his arm slot those doubts could be put to rest. If he develops his changeup and command, fixes his delivery and adds strength to his projectable frame, there is a mid-rotation SP upside in the profile.