November 3, 2014 at 7:30 AM
Past entries in this year's Top 40 Season in Review series can be found here.
#10: Garin Cecchini, 3B/OF
2014 Teams: Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Red Sox
Final Stats: 458 PA, .263/.341/.371, 21 2B, 1 3B, 7 HR, 44 BB, 99 SO, 11 SB (minors)
36 PA, .258/.361/.452, 3 2B, 3B, 1 HR, 3 BB, 11 SO (majors)
Season in Review: 2014 represented a bit of a step back for Garin Cecchini, who endured a brutal three-month midseason slump, but the 2010 fourth-round pick did give the organization and prospect watchers reasons to be optimistic going forward. After a fantastic 2013 performance split across 262 plate appearances in Salem (.350/.469/.547) and 295 in Portland (.296/.420/.404), expectations were high for the 23-year-old, and the Red Sox aggressively placed him in Triple-A Pawtucket to begin 2014. While he hit well in the season’s first month, he failed from the outset to hit for much power, an ever-growing concern since his power dropped off in Portland. At the close of April, Cecchini was hitting .312 with a .400 on-base percentage, but was slugging just .390, having hit just three doubles and a home run in 90 plate appearances. Perhaps due to this lack of power, Cecchini's approach—a noted strength—appeared to change in an attempt to generate more pop. In May, his line fell to .253/.315/.293 for the month.
Despite the struggles, on June 1, Cecchini was summoned to Boston to serve as a roster placeholder for one day. While he was not in the starting lineup, an early Dustin Pedroia ejection forced him into duty, and he produced an RBI double off the monster in his second MLB at-bat. Returning to Pawtucket the next day, Cecchini’s scuffles at the plate resumed. From June 2 through August 7—with a call-up to Boston in which he did not play in mid-June—he hit just .187/.267/.303 in 43 games over 172 plate appearances. In an effort to add to Cecchini's versatility—and perhaps find him a better defensive fit, given his still-rough play at third base—the Red Sox introduced him to occasional duty in left field after he returned from his second call-up, and he would split his time between third and left for the next two and a half months. Later in the year, he began taking fly balls in right field, but he did not see time at the position during game action. Also included during this stretch was a period of just over a week following a shoulder injury on a play at the plate on July 9.
In early August, Cecchini finally got his legs back underneath him. From August 9 through the end of the regular season, he hit .382/.460/.592 in 21 games, clubbing 10 doubles and two home runs. He remained productive with the PawSox in the playoffs, hitting .306/.350/.417 in nine games before being summoned to Boston. Playing over an ineffective and hobbled Will Middlebrooks, Cecchini struck out over 29 percent of the time in 32 plate appearances, but displayed some intriguing pop and patience in hitting .241/.353/.414, including his first major league home run, and made a handful of defensive gems despite not always looking overly fluid or polished at third. That strikeout rate continued a startling trend that had remained constant through the season, as Cecchini's strikeout rate surpassed 20-percent in every month of the season, and ended up at 21.6 percent, a figure he had not come close to reaching in his first three professional seasons. Still, after pulling himself out of his long slump, he remained upbeat about his development over the course of the year. - Matt Picard
Scouting Report and 2015 Outlook: Offensively, Cecchini displays a future plus hit tool from the left side and one of the best approaches at the plate in the system. He shows advanced knowledge of the strike zone, allowing him to work deep into counts and get into great hitter's counts, and he understands what pitches he can and cannot handle. The swing is a line drive stroke with an all-fields approach. His power grade is average at best based on his approach, but he should hit for a large number of doubles into the gaps. In a small sample of at-bats I saw against left handed pitching, Cecchini looked a lot more uncomfortable than against righties, and was more inclined to chase pitches and look off-balance with uncomfortable swings. He may struggle with advanced left-handed pitching at the major league level.
Defensively, Cecchini lacks agility in his lower half and side-to-side quickness at third base. The arm strength is average at best, and the accuracy is fringe-average. The overall defensive tools grade as fringe-average, and I think he still needs to make a big improvement to be an average defender. He increased his positional flexibility this past year getting time in in left field. He is an average runner with the ability to steal a base with his great instincts and baserunning. The tools defensively are keeping Cecchini back right now, a fact essentially acknowledged by the organization to the media, and he thus should begin 2015 back with Pawtucket. Cecchini is still far off defensively from being an everyday major leaguer, and I would like to see him get more experience against advanced left-handed pitching at the Triple-A. Given his ability to square balls up and get in great hitter's counts, it would not surprise me to see a spike in his power numbers as he ages without having to change his all-fields, line-drive approach. The power will come naturally. - Chaz Fiorino
Additional editorial support provided by Norm Cimon.
Photo credit: Kelly O'Connor