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Braves NRI In-Depth: Adam Russell

As you can see, Russell puts a lot of effort into his throwing motion.
As you can see, Russell puts a lot of effort into his throwing motion.

There's not much to get excited about with Atlanta Braves non-roster invitee Adam Russell. He's a reliever who has managed to find Major League playing time in each of the last four seasons, with relatively unflattering results. I guess the good news is that as a minor league free agent, the Braves won't be overpaying for him.

Russell's biggest claim to fame is that he was one of four players traded to the Padres by the White Sox in 2009 for Jake Peavy. Then in 2010 he was one of four players traded to the Rays for Jason Bartlett (which begs the question, how is Jason Bartlett worth any four players?). It seems Russell lost a bit of his luster going from worth part of Peavy to worth part of Bartlett.

The problem with Russell as a reliever is that he's an habitual walker. He has a 4.0 walk-per-nine-inning rate in his minor league career, and a 4.8 BB/9 rate in his Major League career. In that Major League career he has thrown a total of 86.2 innings spanning four years with Chicago, San Diego, and Tampa Bay. He's been the sixth man in those bullpens, getting used in mostly low leverage situations.

Russell has a good fastball that can reach into the mid-90s, but he has spotty control on his other pitches, which makes him rely too heavily on his fastball. He'll be 29 next year, so he hasn't been a prospect in quite a while, and if he makes the Braves roster he could end up being one of the oldest pitchers in the bullpen.

Russell was designated for assignment last July by the Rays, in a move that was more about being the odd man out rather than pitching his way out of a job. Russell has a tough demeanor on the mound, and he stands an imposing 6' 8" tall.

I imagine he'll get a long look this spring for the Braves, and he has a good shot at making the club given his experience. I'm fairly certain he's out of options, so once he's in the bullpen he'll likely be there to stay. Unless he finds a new trick, he'll be a no-frills reliever who will likely pitch in way too many critical situations for Atlanta. He probably won't be quite Proctor-bad, but he won't be Linebrink-"good" either. More than likely he will represent decent depth in the system while pitching at Gwinnett.

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