Garin Cecchini is very good.
That’s perhaps the biggest takeaway I can relay from my trip to Portland to see the Sea Dogs last Friday. With Portland playing a good New Britton Rock Cats (Twins affiliate) team, this game afforded me the opportunity to see four Top 100 prospect candidates in Cecchini, Anthony Ranaudo, Miguel Sano and Eddie Rosario.
And despite Xander Bogaerts, Brandon Workman and Jackie Bradley now spending their time in Pawtucket, the Portland roster is still littered with interesting prospects who are easy to lose track of in a deep Red Sox system.
Let me just give the little disclaimed I give before any article in which I report my direct observations: I am not a scout, and I’ll never claim to be. I do watch a ton of baseball and poor over hours and hours of minor league footage, and I get to as many MiLB games as I can. I don’t think I know as much about watching minor leaguers as Jason Parks or Keith Law. I do think I know more than the average MLB fan. Take my observations here with a grain of salt and put however much stock you want into them, and also keep in mind that I’m seeing one game from these players. The sample size here is incredibly small, but such is “scouting.”
Without further ado, here’s my take on seven of the Sea Dogs I saw on Friday, and whether I left more or less impressed with their value as prospects.
Garin Cecchini, DH
The best news for Red Sox fans from my trip to Portland is that I left very impressed with Garin Cecchini. Since Miguel Sano only received one at-bat, Cecchini was the clear “best player on the field” on Friday, looking more physically mature, more advanced and confident than his peers. I saw a quiet, balanced approach at the plate with a pretty right-handed swing and a natural bat-to-ball ability that I’m growing to appreciate more and more the longer I do this. Cecchini went 2-for-4 with a double on the night, and one of his outs was very hard hit. I didn’t see a swing geared towards power at present, but it’s not hard to envision Cecchini growing into 15-20 homer power in his prime.
Unfortunately, Cecchini didn’t play the field during the game, instead serving as Portland’s DH, so I was unable to judge his reactions at third base. That being said, I did notice that Cecchini has a thicker lower half and didn’t really strike me as a quick-twitch athlete. That’s not enough to make a judgment on his ability to stay at the hot corner, but it does tell me that the gargantuan stolen base totals he put up last year won’t be replicated in the majors, as many before me have indicated. He could have the baseball smarts to swipe 10-15 bags a year.
Overall Impression: Up. Cecchini looks like a legit Top 50 prospect to me, and I’m excited about the hit tool. How much power he’ll grow into and where he’ll end up are still to be determined. Also, he wears high socks, which speaks well to his character.
Anthony Ranaudo, SP
With Ranaudo starting Friday and Matt Barnes starting Saturday, I was left with a tough choice when deciding which game I wanted to attend. Ranaudo’s been so good this season that I opted to put eyes on him over Barnes, which would’ve been almost unthinkable headed into the season. The good news is Ranaudo pitched fairly well when I saw him, throwing seven innings of two-run ball. The bad news is I wasn’t blown away by his stuff, and I’m not sure I see the No. 2/3 starter we’ve heard touted so many times before.
Ranaudo was wild to start off the game, demonstrating an ability to command a fastball that sat 91-92, mostly missing up in the zone. The good news is that Ranaudo appeared to be in fantastic shape and repeated his delivery well, allowing him to come out of the gate in the second inning looking much stronger. He relied heavily on a fastball that topped out at 94 mph and a curveball that he could consistently throw for strikes. Ranaudo also threw a few changeups, but this seemed like more of a pitch designed to keep hitters honest than to truly generate outs. Overall, Ranaudo gave up four hits while walking three and striking out three in his seven innings, leaving with the lead but finishing with a no decision.
Overall Impression: Down slightly. Ranaudo’s come a long way considering he had dropped off the radar, and I see a viable starting pitcher. I think he’s more of a No. 4 starter than a potential rotation lynchpin, but if the fastball plays up or he’s more comfortable with the changeup than my view suggests, I could be a bit low on him here.
Michael Almanzar, 3B
While I was disappointed that Cecchini wasn’t playing third base, I was happy that this meant I’d get to judge Almanzar’s defensive ability and overall game. A lithe, young-looking 22-year-old, Almanzar’s listed weight is 190 lbs but he’d need to be wearing goalie equipment to get there. He went 0-for-4 at the plate on Friday, but except for one at-bat he looked like he had a plan and he fouled off a ton of pitches. These are all the nice things I can say about Almanzar.
I think we’ve all heard of Almanzar’s poor attitude by now, but it was something else to see in person. During one at-bat, he half-heartedly swung at the first pitch and then half-assed jogging down the first base line as he grounded out. In the ninth inning, he made an error on a routine ground ball at third that ended up costing Portland the game. And throughout much of the affair, Almanzar appeared aloof and somewhat disinterested in the game. Maybe he just had a bad day, but I didn’t like what I saw.
Overall Impression: Down. Almanzar looked bad at third base and didn’t showcase a bat that can hold up at first. He’s clearly got some talent at the plate, but based on this one glimpse, I don’t see him enjoying much of a major league career.
Christian Vazquez, C
Vazquez caught my eye last year when I went to Portland, and I walked away even more impressed this year. Sure, he went just 1-for-4 on the evening, but its Vazquez’ defense that makes him stand out, as he looks the part of a solid framer and can flash some impressive pop times to second base. Vazquez batted in the No. 2 hole for the Sea Dogs, which I like as it gets him more at-bats. And with a .342 OBP on the season, it’s not completely unjustified, either.
I understand that it’s hard to get excited about a defense-first backstop, but catching depth is an extraordinarily valuable commodity, as the Red Sox are seeing first-hand this season. I’m anxious to hear more about Vazquez’ ability to work with a pitching staff and to hear about his framing and blocking from an expert, because I think he’s going to be a sneaky-good player.
Overall Impression: Up. The man can really play defense, and while I don’t think he’ll hit enough to be a regular he’s not entirely helpless with the bat. He’ll stick in the majors for a while as a backup at some point.
Notes On Three More
Travis Shaw, 1B
Overall Impression: Up. Shaw had a nice night at the plate, going 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk. The homer was an absolute bullet off of a LHP, which was nice to see, and the ball was lifted more with bat speed than with raw strength. That being said, I saw Shaw take a few ugly swings and the road to the majors for any 1B prospect is a tough one.
Derrik Gibson, 2B
Overall Impression: Up. Gibson entered the night hitting just .212 but went 3-for-4 with a double and a triple and drove in a pair of runners as well. The defense at 2B wasn’t very smooth, but Gibson showed surprising pop in his bat and a 60-grade run tool. He’s never hit at any level in the minors, so perhaps I just caught him on a good night, but I liked the bat nonetheless.
J.C. Linares, OF
Overall Impression: Down. Remember when people were clamoring for Linares to get a shot in the majors? Yikes, I say. In Linares I saw an athletic left fielder who didn’t generate much bat speed and looked overly-aggressive at the plate. Factor in that he’s about to turn 29 and the future doesn’t look very bright.