Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Stats-Nerd Man Crush on Garin Cecchini

The left side of the Red Sox infield is already a bit crowded with Stephen Drew and Will Middlebrooks starting regularly and Xander Bogaerts battling for at bats as the star prospect.  Down the road the Red Sox have more talent in the pipeline with potential future third baseman Garin Cecchini.

Originally selected in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB draft by the Red Sox, Cecchini was more of a short stop, but at 6'3" with his body starting to fill out he's been pushed to third base.  He is far from the prototypical third baseman as he has yet to top 5 homers at any level in the minors.  His ISO was an amazingly low .108 in Double-A this season, but this still doesn't lower the optimism from those watching.
photo credit: paul.hadsall via photopin cc

To start 2013 there was some interest and optimism and his rankings among Red Sox prospects cracked the top 7 on most lists.  One fairly optimistic ranking was from John Sickels of MinorLeagueBall.com who placed him at number four and gave him a grade of B, but borderline a B+.  That is a strong recommendation for a batter with such little power at a power position.  For a compariosn Jose Iglesias was his 12th ranked Red Sox prospect with a C+ grade.

So what has stat nerds and prospect scouts so excited is an amazing ability to get on base.  This is a level usually reserved for power hitters with 25+ home runs.  His OBP in the second half of 2013 at Double-A was .420 after totaling a .469 in half a season at high A ball.  The only two players in the majors this season with an OBP over .400 and less than 20 homers are Andrew McCutchen and Joe Mauer for a comparison.

Looking closely at his Double-A stats Cecchini had a walk rate of 17.3 percent.  Through 295 plate appearances that is a fairly solid number and his 16.4 percent in High A Ball shows he's been doing it at this level all of 2013.  He's going to have to deal with better pitching next season at Triple-A and he's still a while of from the majors, but for comparison only 10 players in 2013 have a walk rate over 13 percent.

His defense at third should be good enough and probably no better or worse than Middlebrooks.  According to ScoutingBook.com his defense was described as :
Cecchini shows good (but not great) glove and footwork, and his arm can certainly handle the long throws from third, so there's little worry that he'll be able to play there.
Looking for a 2013 comparison you would probably be right to look at Joe Mauer.  Someone with a very similar approach and not the prototypical power of someone with an OBP over .400.  In 2013 Mauer has a walk rate of 12 percent and a strikeout rate of 17.5 percent.  Earlier in his career he struck out less, but his walk rate has always been right around 12 to 13 percent.

Mauer has also never been much of a power hitter other than his fluke 2009 when he totaled 28 home runs he has never topped 13 homers in any season.  Cecchini has one advantage on the power side as he is still fairly young.  His power could grow and could develop more.

Regardless his skill at the plate to work counts and get on base should probably target Cecchini as the ultimate player to fit what is known as the Red Sox target player.  Next season will be the true test for Cecchini as he faces more breaking pitches which he has struggled with so far in his pro career.  If he can continue to show the ability to get on base and grow into perhaps a 15+ home run hitter the Red Sox will have some tough choices going forward with a very talented group of infielders.

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