June 18, 2015 at 10:15 PM
PAWTUCKET, R.I. -- Last weekend, Assistant Director of Scouting Chaz Fiorino sat on three games between the Pawtucket Red Sox and Toledo Mud Hens at McCoy Stadium. What follows are his reports on three members of the Pawtucket lineup.
The Line: 4 for 9, 1 2B, 0K, 1BB
The 25-year-old, left-handed hitter saw time at third base Friday and Saturday night before his one-day call up to the big leagues on Sunday. Shaw had 10 impressive plate appearances, consistently putting the ball in play and driving the ball to all fields. Shaw’s success came up the middle and pull side to right field, where his four hits fell in. The lone extra base hit came on an 0-1 breaking ball he was able to catch out front and drive into right-center field for a double.
Defensively, Shaw erased any questions I had about his ability to play third base. Over the course of the two games, Shaw was challenged and showed the ability to range both to his right and left and get to balls hit his way on pure instincts. He moved laterally side-to-side with athleticism a lot better than I would have anticipated. He also made a number of above-average, strong throws to first, as well as some tough throws to second with accuracy. I came away putting a 55 grade on Shaw’s defense at third, and I am comfortable enough to say he should be at least average defensively at third, with a chance to be a plus defender over there.
Shaw is an interesting potential utility left-handed bat off the bench at the next level who can offer some raw power and ability to play at least three corner positions in first base, third base, and left field. The overall hit tool and raw power will have to continue to develop to play his way into talks of an everyday corner position player at the big league level.
The line: 2 games, 4 for 7, 2 2B, 0 K, 2 BB, HBP, CS, PO
The 25-year-old, left-handed hitter was a difference maker in this look. Hitting out of the leadoff spot, Bradley went 4 for 7 with two doubles and his typical well above-average defense in center field. He has made some significant adjustments at the plate in 2015, and those immediately stood out. Bradley has closed his stance and appears to set up at the plate with his hands higher than he did last year. After struggling in 2014 with pitches on the inner-half, these adjustments have allowed him to simplify his approach and shorten his swing to stay more direct and quick through the zone.
On Friday night, Bradley consistently put up quality at-bats. In his first at-bat, he got ahead 1-0 and jumped on the first fastball in the zone, driving it with authority opposite field for a ground rule double. His three ensuing trips to the plate resulted in a walk, a hit-by-pitch, and a sacrifice bunt. His final at-bat came in the bottom of the 12th with the game tied and runners on first and second. Bradley again showed good patience, and after working the count to 2-1, got a fastball middle-away and drove it the other way, this time into the left-center field gap for the game-winning double. Bradley was also very aggressive on the basepaths He was caught stealing second on a plus throw from Toledo catcher Manny Pina in the early innings, and later picked off first after another incredible throw on a back-pick from Pina in extra innings.
On Saturday, Bradley put together another string of quality at-bats and consistent contact. In his second at-bat, he stayed back on an 0-1 breaking ball and drove it back up the middle for a line-drive single. His final at-bat was the perfect look at what he had shown over the two games: Behind 0-2, Bradley got a fastball on the inner-half. He shortened up and was able to get inside the pitch to drive a ground ball back up the middle for a base hit.
It was clearly evident over these 11 plate appearances that Bradley has made significant strides with his swing and his ability to shorten up and drive the ball the other way. He is a lot more quiet with his lower half at the plate, and that combined with closing off his stance has allowed him to stay on pitches longer and avoid pulling off and flying open early as he had last year. The time is now for Bradley to get another chance at the big league level while he is in a rhythm and going good.
The Line: 2 games, 1 for 9, 1K, 0 BB
The 24-year-old, left-handed hitter saw time as the designated hitter on Friday night, got the day off Saturday, and returned to the lineup playing left field on Sunday. Cecchini seemingly struggled at the plate, tallying three fly outs to left and two to center, grounding out once to second for a double play and once to the pitcher, striking out looking, and driving a line-drive single to left-center field for his lone hit. But on the bright side, Cecchini is actually at his best when he is working middle-opposite field and driving balls up the middle and to the left-center gap. When he has struggled in the past is when he has gotten pull happy and tried to sell out for power, causing him to seemingly fly open early and get caught out front. This made him susceptible to breaking balls and pitches on the outer half.
Cecchini’s overall approach did not seem to be an issue this series. However, he appeared a bit out of rhythm and was a tad late getting his foot down and loaded in time, which contributed to weak fly balls on pitches he just missed and would usually get to. Cecchini’s stance at the plate also appeared to be a bit altered from past looks. He appeared to be in a slightly more crouched stance, and had a toe tap load as he would stride closed off. Previously, Cecchini had a very short stride forward and less movement from his lower half. Cecchini has possibly made an adjustment striding more closed off to combat previous issues with flying open early and pulling off pitches, most notably against left-handed pitching.
While the results at the plate have not been satisfactory, I still remain optimistic about his overall hit tool. In fact, taking minor league batted ball numbers with a huge grain of salt, Cecchini is actually hitting line drives at a higher rate this year (22.2%) than last year (18.8%). Although his strikeout percentage has increased this year and his walk percentage decreased, he has been a victim of poor luck on balls in play this year, his BABIP just .246 versus .332 last year, which itself was a career low for him.
Despite my optimism on his overall future hit tool, it is going to be an overall below average grade power profile and I would not feel comfortable plugging him in at third base defensively due to his lack of lateral quickness, lower-half agility, and first-step quickness along with poor arm accuracy. I have not seen enough of Cecchini in left field to pass on his ability to play the position, but the arm may be an issue out there. The lack of power and below average defensive profile make Cecchini tough to project as an everyday corner position player at the next level.
Photo credit: Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Garin Cecchini by Kelly O'Connor
Chaz Fiorino is Assistant Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @cbfiorino.