The Boston Red Sox promoted third base prospect Garin Cecchini to the big league roster over the weekend. This was to cover a temporary bench shortage and he was sent back to Triple-A Pawtucket after one game, but he did collect his first major league hit (a double) during that game. Cecchini is something of a controversial prospect, but we'll be seeing him in the Show again later this year and he's a great topic for Wednesday's Prospect of the Day.
Garin Cecchini was drafted in the fourth round in 2010, from high school in Lake Charles, Louisiana. His draft status was a little misleading: he was considered a first-round quality player due to his superior feel for hitting, but fell down to the fourth round due to his strong commitment to Louisiana State in combination with a torn ACL that required surgery and kept him off the field in the months before the draft. The Red Sox (obviously) were able to sign him with an above-slot bonus of $1,310,000.
He came back to baseball with Lowell in the New York-Penn League in 2011, hitting .298/.398/.500 in 32 games, with a 17/19 K/BB in 133 plate appearances, also contributing 12 steals. He made 10 errors in 26 games for a horrid .844 fielding percentage, but his range and arm strength were better than expected and it was felt he could settle down with the glove.
Cecchini hit .305/.394/.433 with a 61/90 BB/K in 526 plate appearances for Low-A Greenville in 2012. He also swiped 51 bases in 57 attempts despite average (at best) running speed, testifying to his outstanding baseball instincts. He also dramatically improved his defensive reliability and led Sally League third basemen in fielding percentage.
He got off to a blistering start in 2013, hitting .350/.469/.547 in 63 games for High-A Salem, followed by a .322/.443/.471 mark in 66 games for Double-A Portland. His overall line was .322/.443/.471 with 23 steals and a 94/86 BB/K ratio. He was off to a slower start this year for Triple-A Pawtucket, hitting .277/.352/.333 in 51 games. He's hit just one homer, but is still showing sound on-base skills.
Cecchini is listed at 6-3, 220, a left-handed hitter, born April 20, 1991. He is not a guy who wows you with his physical tools. He doesn't run particularly well, his arm isn't a cannon, and he doesn't have massive raw power. What he does have is a preternatural feel for baseball. Somehow he's stolen 92 bases in 110 career attempts. His glove at third base isn't excellent, but he's made a lot of progress and usually seems to make the smart play. As he loses range with age he may have to shift to another position, but for now he's playable at third.
Despite his so-so opening in Triple-A, I have faith in his ability to hit for average and get on base. His eye for the strike zone is excellent, he doesn't chase unhittable pitches, and his swing should work against big league pitching. The main question for Cecchini is power: he's not a home run hitter, and indeed some analysts have expressed concern that he won't show enough pop, even for doubles, to maintain his production against the best competition.
I can understand that, and he'll need to show more SLG if he moves off third base. However, for reasons which I can't quite quantify, I think he'll eventually show more power than his minor league record implies. It's a subjective judgment, but I'm confident in his ability to make adjustments.