We've already begun our encompassing look at the third base position with the release of our consensus top 30 third basemen for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 third base prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up on the list is Red Sox' third baseman Garin Cecchini.
Weight: 200 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: Yes
Options Left: 3
DOB: 4/20/1991 (Age 23 season)
Coming into his senior year, Cecchini was viewed as a potential first round draft pick, and ranked as the #15 high school prospect by Baseball America in their 2010 handbook. However, a torn ACL, coupled with a commitment to play at LSU led him to fall to the Red Sox in the 4th round that year. The team was able to get him to bypass LSU with a bonus of just over $1.3 million, but did not debut that year.
Drafted as a shortstop, the Red Sox moved Cecchini to third base for his professional debut in the NY-Penn League, where he hit .298/.398/.500 in 32 games that season before a broken wrist ended his season. The Red Sox moved him up to full season ball in 2012, and posted an eye-popping 51 stolen bases to go with a .305 batting average and four home runs in 118 games.
The stolen base total dropped in his two stops during the 2013 season, but the performance might have been even better overall. He stole just 23 bases, but posted a .322/.443/.471 slash line with seven home runs across both levels, including a ridiculous walk rate (16.8%) which was higher than his strikeout rate (15.4%). While he did a majority of his damage at High-A rather than AA, he still more than held his own at the higher level, hitting .296/.420/.404 there in a similar amount of games.
The Scouting Report
Cecchini's report starts with his hit tool, which is one of the more advanced in the minor leagues. Baseball America's Therron Brockish graded it out as a 70 in his profile of Cecchini from the Arizona Fall League, and the performance so far already matches up with that. He's a career .312 hitter in the minor leagues, and his approach is considered extremely refined and capable of providing high on-base percentages as well.
While Cecchini has shown excellent stolen base totals so far in the minors, he is not expected to provide nearly that much speed in the major leagues. He's considered an excellent base runner, which helps him out despite not having particularly great speed, and has had excellent success (84%) in the minors when attempting to steal.
The big question surrounding him is his power potential. Generally viewed as a power-heavy position, Cecchini isn't particularly likely to surpass 20 home runs in a season too often, as his swing isn't really built for it right now. Most reports point to him having more power than he has shown so far, with 15+ home runs a possibility.
On defense, Cecchini is considered to be decent but not spectacular at third base, and is not expected to need to move from the position due to concerns. He's not likely to be a top-flight defender, but isn't going to be Miguel Cabrera over there by any stretch.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
Cecchini has only played a total of 66 games above A-ball, and with Will Middlebrooks (and potentially Xander Bogaerts) ahead of him currently, he seems likely return to AA to start the season. Realistically, the only thing that stands out to me at this point is that he just needs more reps, as he has just 295 plate appearances at AA to his name.
When Could He Arrive?
I believe that a 2015 arrival of some sort is the most likely, as the team will look to find out what they have in Will Middlebrooks this season. Cecchini has been added to the 40-man roster, so if a long-term injury happens, he would be an easy call up for the team.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
I see Cecchini as a very high batting average, decent power third baseman who can provide more than token speed. A line of .300 with 10-12 home runs and 5-7 stolen bases seems reasonable most seasons, with the potential for even more home runs some years as well.
Cecchini is a very interesting prospect, as he could be slightly undervalued to fantasy owners given his lower-than-average power production for his position. That said, he can provide an excellent batting average, and has even more value in on-base leagues as well. I have him as my #7 prospect at third base, and at #66 overall on the current draft of our top 200 prospect rankings list (running early next month, by the way).
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Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball