Garin Cecchini is the owner of one of the prettiest swings in the minor leagues. Over the last year and a half the Red Sox third base prospect has begun to turn his considerable natural talents into production. Recently Keith Law of ESPN.com even ranked Cecchini among his updated top 25 prospects (subscription required). He’s long been a favorite of mine and he may soon be a favorite for your fantasy team.
Cecchini was no stranger to scouts entering his senior year of high school. He was the coach’s son at Barbe High School in Lake Charles, Lousiana. Barbe is a well known power program and Cecchini had done the showcase and tournament circuit as an underclassman. He was considered one of the best prep bats in the country entering the Spring of 2010, but saw his stock drop after he tore the ACL in his right knee that March. Boston always seems eager to scoop up players dropping late and they gladly nabbed Cecchini in the 4th round. Hard slot rules for draft picks didn’t exist at this point and the Red Sox anted up $1.3 million (READ: 1st round money) to buy him out of an LSU commitment.
Due to the knee injury Cecchini didn’t make his pro debut until midway through 2011 with short season Lowell in the New York Penn League. He got off to a scorching hot start (.298/.398/.500) and was generating a lot of buzz around the league before a stray pitch broke his forearm. Boston sent him to Low-A Greenville in the Sally League to begin 2012 and he picked up right where he left off, hitting .305/.394/.433. He also turned heads by stealing 51 bases that year. Cecchini progressed to High-A Salem in the Carolina League this year and is now batting an absurd .355/.465/.594. He’s already set a new season high for home runs with 5 and has swiped 12 bags. Almost as impressive is the BB/K ratio. Cecchini has more walks this year than strikeouts (28:25) and for his career he has 106 walks and 134 strikeouts.
Cecchini has that smooth, pretty swing that many ballplayers spend their lives trying to achieve. It’s a simple load that generates great bat speed. The bat head takes a short path to the ball and he repeats his hitting mechanics well generally. He’s good at working pitchers into a favorable count and will usually take a free pass if you give it to him. Despite the fantastic BB:K ratio and a 12.5% BB rate as a pro, Cecchini’s approach does still need fine tuning. He has problems recognizing breaking and offspeed pitches and will sometimes expand his zone and chase – especially low. I didn’t see it, but I’ve been told he has particular trouble against left-handed pitching. Ultimately I still think Cecchini has a future plus hit tool. This is a very intelligent batter who makes adjustments and should continue to adapt and improve. Power is perhaps a bigger question mark, but it should come eventually. Cecchini has some leverage in his swing but isn’t a natural power hitter. His swing plane is a nice line drive gap stroke. With his bat speed and ability to square the ball up he does hit the ball hard but he’s not looking to drive it with authority. This hitting skillset can result in fringe average power anyway, but once he learns to identify and look for pitches he can drive he could top out at 20 or more home runs a season. It might not show up for a few seasons in the majors, but he’s such a good hitter that I expect the over the fence power to eventually blossom.
In terms of speed, Cecchini’s stolen base totals are somewhat deceiving on their face. His foot speed is good but not great. He’s not at all a burner or some kind of poor man’s Billy Hamilton. This is another area where Cecchini’s baseball smarts make an impact as he picks good spot and gets great jumps. He’s a well coached player; a gamer who knows the game and does the little things well. These skills will equate to stolen bases in the big leagues too, but it will be more of a challenge and I doubt they’ll be coming anywhere near as frequently against more polished pitchers. I could see him stealing 15 stolen bases yearly perhaps. It’s difficult to project though, and he could surprise us. Stolen bases aren’t all about speed and Cecchini is a great reminder of that fact. In high school he was a shortstop, but one with fringy tools for the position who was widely expected to end up at the hot corner. The adjustment to third base as a pro has not been all that smooth, but I feel a lot of that is due to the time lost to injuries. He’s more stiff with his actions in the field than you’d expect and I have to chalk that up to inexperience playing that position. Cecchini has all the tools to be at least a solid average third baseman. He’s got decent range for third and good hands. The arm is strong and accurate enough, but isn’t a standout arm for a third baseman. I expect him to continue to improve as he further acclimates to the position. As a backup plan I think he’d be ok in a corner outfield but lacks the footspeed and straight ahead speed to stand out there. His tools and his temperament seem better suited to the infield.
The Path to Playing Time
Cecchini isn’t ready to help now, but he’s dominating A-Ball to such an extent that he’s likely accelerated his timeline. The adjustment to Double-A pitching is one of the most challenging jumps in the minors and it wouldn’t be shocking for it to be prove to be a speed bump. The two big external issues here are Will Middlebrooks and Xander Bogaerts. The Red Sox love Middlebrooks – and understandably so. He’s a quality hitter, person and teammate with a lot of raw power. His approach has always worried me and I wonder if it will continue to mitigate his tools. Middlebrooks is on pace to be getting pretty expensive right around the time Cecchini should be hitting the majors so it’s not necessarily the conundrum you would think anyway. Personally, I see Bogaerts as a shortstop. He’s not a great shortstop but there are plenty of worse defenders around. There’s no reason he can’t play there for Boston for a number of years. If Cecchini continues to perform he’s going to force his way into the organization’s plans one way or another. As for an ETA, if Cecchini went a full season at Salem (High-A), Double-A and Triple-A that would put him on pace for 2016. I could see him beating that time table and perhaps arriving midseason 2015 with a couple appearances before that. Middlebrooks projects to be entering his 2nd arb. year in 2016.
- On 40 Man Roster: No
- Options Remaining: 3
What to Expect
Cecchini could be a .300 hitter with 15+ home run power early in his career, with a crescendo to 20+ homers. 15 stolen bases is possible and perhaps more, but he won’t be a big stolen base threat.
- Mixed League Value: Solid. A high AVG and good all around counting numbers is ever a welcome addition to your fantasy starting nine (or ten or 14 or whatever!).
- AL Only League Value: Strong. Cecchini can fill up the statline though he won’t dominate any categories. He’s not going to be an elite option in any format, but his consistency and well rounded skill set could make him that guy you wait on and are happy to get a few rounds later.
- Ottoneu Value: Strong. Profile for consistent Ottoneu production thanks to his well balanced skill set.
- OBP League Value: Cecchini is a tough out who is going to hit for a high AVG and walk a lot. His value gets a nice boost in OBP leagues.
Marc Hulet ranked Cecchini the 5th best prospect in the Red Sox system this offseason
Mike Newman looked at Cecchini in this article last November
My buddy Chris Blessing of Bullpen Banter profiled Cecchini in this piece.
Thanks for reading -AS
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