Prospect Watch: Cecchini and Flores and Their New Futures

Each weekday during the minor-league season, FanGraphs is providing a status update on multiple rookie-eligible players. Note that Age denotes the relevant prospect’s baseball age (i.e. as of July 1st of the current year); Top-15, the prospect’s place on Marc Hulet’s preseason organizational list; and Top-100, that same prospect’s rank on Hulet’s overall top-100 list.

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Garin Cecchini, 3B, Boston Red Sox (Profile)
Level: Triple-A   Age: 23   Top-15: 3rd   Top-100: 51st
Line: 161 PA, 12.4% BB, 21.1% K, 1 HR, .295/.385/.360 (.381 BABIP)

Summary
A fast mover in 2013, Cecchini’s timetable has been set back by the Red Sox’ signing of Stephen Drew.

Notes
Last week, Carson Cistulli listed the top-10 prospects by projected WAR. Tenth on the list was Red Sox third-base prospect Garin Cecchini (1.8 WAR projected for every 550 plate appearance). Apparently, Red Sox General Manager Ben Cherrington does not believe Cecchini is currently able to perform at the aforementioned level and fill the Red Sox third base void. On Tuesday, Cherrington signed Stephen Drew who will return to shortstop and push young Xander Bogaerts to third.

A four-level jump in one full season is rare, but Cecchini managed to accumulate plate appearances across four leagues in 2013 — Rookie, Single-A, High-A and Double-A — before finishing his season in the Arizona Fall League. This season, Cecchini’s profile hasn’t changed. He continues to be a disciplined, line-drive hitter with concerns about his defense and power.

Unfortunately for Cecchini, when Will Middlebrooks‘ performance cratered, Cherrington deemed re-signing Drew to be the solution. Open purse strings can be a hindrance to the development of prospects in a large market, but this was the right move. While it’s unlikely Cecchini features for the Red Sox in 2014, the presence of Drew is merely short term. Cecchini can now focus on improving his defense at third and developing his power and pitch-recognition skills.

Heading into 2015, the obvious solution would be to move Bogaerts back to short and start Cecchini at third. An on-base machine with a patient approach and a simple swing, Cecchini’s transition to the major leagues should be easier than most, though a full-time role will almost certainly be on hold until next season.

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Wilmer Flores, SS?, New York Mets (Profile)
Level: MLB   Age: 22   Top-15: 10th   Top-100: N/A
Line: 126 PA, 7.1% BB, 16.7% K, 5 HR, .307/.360/.500 (.337 BABIP) at Triple-A

Summary
He’s not the shortstop of the future, but he’s the shortstop for now. But not really. It’s confusing.

Notes
Relative to their peers, there are some professional baseball players who are terrible. Of course, they are considerably more talented than most minor leaguers and the pool of athletes who didn’t reach the MLB, but there are some that leave us wondering, “Why are you still receiving regular plate appearances?” Yuniesky Betancourt. Jeff Francoeur. Ruben Tejada.

Over the past two seasons (roughly 100 games), Tejada has been worth -1.0 WAR. He clearly has not regained his 2012 form as the Mets have hoped. Now, his consistent playing time was supposed to end when the Mets recalled Wilmer Flores. While Flores was moved off shortstop several seasons ago, the Mets’ belief must have been, “He can’t be any worse, right?” Alas, Terry Collins has ensured we would not find out.

Flores started the first two games before he became ill just before the series against the Yankees. In his stead Tejada raked, posting a .569 OPS in 30 plate appearances from May 11 through May 20. Yet, Collins insisted Wednesday that Flores and Tejada will split time.

On Tuesday, in Flores’ second start since returning from his illness, his lack of range was on display. In one instance, a ground ball hit several steps to his left forced an awkward dive and flip to Daniel Murphy. The Mets moved him off the position several years ago because he lacked range and foot speed. That hasn’t changed and it is clear Flores’ future is not at shortstop. A strong performance won’t likely change that but, as a bat-only player, it could convince his suitors that he can be productive at another position. His contact ability remains his best asset and his approach has improved, but unless Flores can prove that last season’s power was not a mirage he will not overcome his defensive shortcomings.




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Formerly of Bullpen Banter, JD can be followed on Twitter.


12 Responses to “Prospect Watch: Cecchini and Flores and Their New Futures”

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  1. FeslenR says:

    Collins is one of the worst managers out there, at this point what could it hurt to play Flores everyday? As a Met fan, it angers and saddens me that they continue to putz around with Tejada and Quintanilla, when both offer nothing with offense and defense.

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    • Za says:

      Quintanilla is in the Minors and Tejada is, defensively-speaking, a Major League shortstop. His offense is what will prevent him from starting on a competitive ball-club. A Flores-offense/Tejada-defense mashup would be a Top-100 and maybe Top-50 prospect in the Majors but we do not have the technology.

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  2. everdiso says:

    So Cecchini is a 23yr old DH prospect with a high-babip-fuelled .745ops in AAA.

    Heard he was better than that.

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    • SimonSays says:

      If you don’t swing very often because of good pitch recognition you don’t put many balls in play, but the ones you do put in play should be hit better. He has a very low OSwing% and average ZSwing%. But his BABIP is right in line with his career average, which is a good sign since he keeps producing even as he moves up the system.

      As for defense, it’s better than it was.

      Hey, Big Papi is retiring soon (probably). The Red Sox need another DH.

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    • John C says:

      The BABIP is normal. Cecchini is a legitimate .300 hitter. Problem is that he’s not anything else. All he does is slap singles; he doesn’t even have gap power. Basically, he’s the new Dave Magadan. There’s a place for a guy like that in the majors, but he doesn’t project as a championship-caliber regular unless he learns to hit for at least doubles power.

      The Red Sox are doing the right thing to leave him at Pawtucket. They have lots of guys who can get on base but can’t hit a fly ball out of the infield. They don’t need another one.

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  3. acerimusdux says:

    Flores best position is probably SS. His lack of speed would be more a liability in the OF, and his strong arm means he should likely stay on the left side of the infield. So really it’s SS or 3B.

    He has always had good hands and defensive instincts, he’s not going to be a big liability. Not sure what is so hard to accept about a bat first SS who is a bit lacking in range. His best position might eventually be 3B, but I doubt he would really be more productive there.

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    • Dan Greer says:

      While I agree with your general sentiment, having seen enough of Peralta, I’ve also heard that some scouts had Flores’ foot speed as barely better than Billy Butler and the Molina brothers. That is not a shortstop.

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      • Anon says:

        Foot speeed defensive ability

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      • vivalajeter says:

        I’m surprised by how slow he is, because it looks like he’s pretty lean. He doesn’t have a Mike Napoli type of frame.

        There was a play against the Dodgers this week where he got an infield single. It was deep in the SS hole, and Hanley Ramirez fielded the ball and made a one-hop throw to 1B but Gonzalez wasn’t able to scoop it. When Ramirez made the throw, I thought it was a waste of a throw because there’s no way he’d get him out. I assumed he’d beat it by a step or two, so you just risk throwing it away and letting him get to second. As it turns out, the throw actually beat him. And when they showed a replay, he was actually hustling right out of the box.

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    • Coop! says:

      Do the Mets have A. an amazing 1B or B. a 2B that can play 1B that would prevent Flores from going to 1B or 2B?

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