Earlier today, Ben Carsley over at Over the Monster (SB Nation's Red Sox hub) published an article about Boston third base prospect Garin Cecchini which is well worth your time to read. Rounding up expert opinions about Cecchini, Carsley points out that everyone agrees that Cecchini can hit, but that few evaluators rank him among the best prospects in the game.
I thought I should weigh in on this because I do think that Cecchini is one of the best hitting prospects around.
As you know, I am far behind schedule in my work right now due to the fallout from my head injury over the winter, and my top 100 prospect list is not close to completion. However, I do have the Red Sox system evaluation finished, and I do have my 2014 Baseball Prospect Book comment for Cecchini complete. Here it is:
Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox
Bats: L Throws: R HT: 6-2 WT: 200 DOB: April 20, 1991
Garin Cecchini is one of the best pure hitters in the minor leagues, combining outstanding strike zone judgment with a line drive approach and gap power. I don’t think he will be a big home run hitter, but the batting average and OBP skills are legitimate and should carry forward to the majors. Bill Mueller seems like a reasonable comp. Although Cecchini’s physical tools aren’t excellent, his feel for the game is special. He’s an effective baserunner despite average speed. His defense isn’t superb but it isn’t bad and I think his glovework at third is underrated, which, come to think of it, is also like Bill Mueller. I expect he will be a very fine major league player just as Mueller was, a career .291 hitter with a .373 OBP who led the American League in hitting one year. If Cecchini does grow into more power, he could be more like Kevin Youkilis, who also proved to be a very valuable player despite non-outstanding physical tools. How Cecchini fits into Boston’s plans is a little unclear, but he should be ready to contribute soon. I let myself get talked out of the "+" on his grade last year, but this year I’m sticking with my instincts and going with a Grade B+. This guy can simply hit.
For me, a Grade B+ grade means that Cecchini will rank among the Top 50 hitting prospects in the game once my list is finished. He's not going to rank in the very top tier with people like Carlos Correa or Byron Buxton, but he'll make a respectable showing on the list.
Some people might consider a Bill Mueller comp to indicate that a player is just going to be OK and not great, but I think that's rather misleading. Mueller finished with a career fWAR of 23.6 and as noted won a batting championship.
Bill Mueller's rookie season was 1996. 39 major league rookie hitters debuted in 1996 and exceeded rookie qualifications, meaning they were no longer eligible for subsequent prospect lists and '96 was their genuine rookie season, not just a cup of coffee.
You know how many of those 39 exceeded Mueller's career 23.6 WAR? It is a small list: Derek Jeter (73.7), Jason Kendall (40.3), Edgar Renteria (35.7), Darin Erstad (28.3) and Rich Aurilia (26.3). And that's it.
If Cecchini has a career like Mueller, let alone anything better, he'll likely wind up as one of the best players in the '14/'15 rookie window and will have a more productive career than many players with "better tools."