The Red Sox organization has been known in recent years for having great, homegrown talent, along with a minor league pipeline which flows freely to Boston. When Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are developed from within, it’s impossible to blame fans for having that perception. However, my reality is the Red Sox prospects scouted in Greenville over the past few years have become less and less exciting to discuss with prospect followers and Red Sox fans alike.
Case-in-point Garin Cecchini, the fifth best prospect in the entire organization per Marc Hulet. In 2009, the young third baseman might have been the fifth best prospect on a Greenville team featuring Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Will Middlebrooks and Ryan Lavarnway. With the Red Sox reputation for churning out big league talent, Cecchini’s high ranking might have prospect followers expecting him to become an impact talent. Unfortunately, I don’t think he is.
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At the plate, Cecchini generates much less power than his leverage should allow given his height. In his swing, very little weight transfer is apparent and he collapses his back leg some. In 12-15 plate appearances, he made no attempt to really tap into his power and his best swing resulted in a double to left-centerfield. I’m impressed by his ability to keep his hands inside the baseball at times, but Cecchini seems far too content with poking baseballs up the middle and to the opposite field. His hands guide the bat head to feel for pitches, not attack them.
This forces me to question his power potential. With 38 doubles and four home runs, it’s reasonable to believe some of those extra base hits will eventually become balls that leave the park. Just how many is up for discussion as I’d be surprised if Cecchini is able to surpass 12 home runs annually. And while I trust his contact/on base skills more than his power potential, his defense will have to provide added value for me to buy into Cecchini as an above average regular at the MLB level.
This is where Cecchini’s prospects become more murky for me. On defense, I struggle to see more than an average third baseman. He makes the routine plays, but lateral movement, instincts and arm strength are all so-so. When assessing the sum of the parts, it’s difficult to see much upward mobility there.
One can point to his 51 stolen bases as an indicator of speed and athleticism, but anybody who has seen Cecchini in person knows his speed does not match the gaudy theft totals. He’s more of a tick above average runner whose stolen base totals are likely to dry up against upper level pitching.
If one disregards Chase Headley’s fantastic 2012 season and instead looks at the 2009-2011 version of the Padres third baseman, a decent comparison for Garin Cecchini presents itself. With a combined triple slash line of .269/.344/.387 and above average defense, Headley combined for 9.1 WAR during those three seasons. Yes, he played quite a bit of left field in 2009, but it doesn’t affect the comp for me. An added bonus is the fact Headley and Cecchini are of comparable size and athleticism. If Cecchini needs a blueprint for becoming an above average big leaguer, Headley is it.
Garin Cecchini had sexy stolen base totals in 2012, but he’s not a “sexy” prospect by any stretch of the imagination. For him to rank in the Red Sox top-5 means the organization’s prospect pool is down considerably from a few years ago. Beyond Xander Bogaerts and maybe Matt Barnes, the minor league system is void of true impact talent. The depth is there to produce a number of average regulars and second division starters, but the trade value of that type of prospect is less than the gaudy rankings would indicate. This leaves the Red Sox and Ben Cherington in a tough spot as the big league club needs help, but their minor league system may not have the horses to successfully turn the page on a franchise in transition.