The Freshmen Report: Burns, DeShields Jr., Russell

Today at The Freshmen Report we’re going to look at a couple of speedsters that are positively impacting their clubs, as well as one of the Cubs’ promising young players.

Billy Burns, OF, Athletics: The A’s entered the season with all sorts of outfield options and Burns was an afterthought — demoted to Triple-A to begin the year. A development success by the Nationals — who selected him in the 32nd round of the 2011 draft — the speedy outfielder needed less than four years in the minors to become a impactful leadoff hitter. He’s stolen 10 bases in 12 attempts but needs to get on base more consistently with a walk rate of just 4.3%; his .362 on-base percentage if heavily-fuelled by his .318 average. Burns, 25, entered the 2015 season viewed as a potential fourth outfielder and, although he’s off to a fast start (pun intended), he hasn’t proven that he’s a regular center-fielder just yet. Enjoy the offence while it lasts but don’t plan around him long term.

Delino DeShields Jr., OF, Rangers: The exclusion of DeShields from the Astros’ 40-man roster back in November was puzzling at the time and the decision to omit him looks even worse now. The young infielder-turned-outfielder has been one of the club’s catalysts as it digs itself out from an early season hole in the standings. And who are they trying to catch? The Astros — which adds even more insult to injury. There are some defensive questions with DeShields, as well as with rumblings about his attitude/effort while in the minors but he might be one of those players that performs better in bright lights then in front of 1,000-people crowds in the minors. The 22-year-old outfielder has stolen 13 bags in 14 tries and also generates good line-drive pop despite his small stature. He’s also getting on base via the walk at a rate of more than 12%.

Lance McCullers Jr., RHP, Astros: You win some and you lose some. The Astros might have lost out on one junior but they’re enjoying the fruits of their labor with another in McCullers Jr. The son of one of my favorite players from the 80s has — aside from making me feel old — been better than expected while making the jump from Double-A to the Majors (with a brief stop in Triple-A where he didn’t pitch). The hard-thrower has been averaging 94 mph with his heater and showing much better control than he displayed in the minors (a red flag). McCullers Jr’s curveball has also been outstanding in the early going but his changeup has lagged behind his other offerings. Even so, his 1-2 punch has been more than good enough the first time through the league. With veteran hurler Scott Feldman out for about six weeks, the young pitcher will have every opportunity to solidify his role on the first-place Astros.

Addison Russell, SS, Cubs: Russell could be a tempting add to your fantasy team because he’s a highly-regarded prospect and plays a premium position. Unfortunately, he’s not really going to be relevant in 2015 so unless you’re in a keeper league, you want to avoid him for now. Only the second player named Addison to play in the Majors, his value (1.0 WAR) is currently tied up solely in his defensive skills and doesn’t help a fantasy manager. He’s hitting in the No. 9 hole in the Cubs lineup, behind the pitcher, and features an empty .295 on-base percentage and a scary strikeout rate at 34% Some good news for the future: 16 of his 35 hits have gone for extra bases, including four homers.





Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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“Offence”!?! Just move to the UK and be done with it you Nancy.