Hard Work at the Hot Corner

Mike Scandura looks into what made Garin Cecchini the highly-touted prospect he is today.

Might Pawtucket Red Sox third baseman Garin Cecchini be to Boston’s Will Middlebrooks what Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts was to Jose Iglesias?

While that may be an interesting theory, PawSox manager Kevin Boles declined to speculate.

“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves,” said Boles. “But what we see right now is an exciting young talent with a chance to hit and a chance to be a quality defender at third.

“The thing he does so well is he focuses on each day. He doesn’t look too far ahead. He’s focusing on his routines and polishing his routines. He puts in the work defensively and concentrates on the throwing programs.

“It isn’t an accident that he’s had success,” continued Boles. “He’s only going to get better as a player.”

Cecchini's defense improved last season. Photo by Kelly O'Connor

Garin Cecchini became a top prospect through hard work, determination, and a family obsessed with baseball. Photo by Kelly O’Connor

Arguably, a case could be made that Cecchini was the best position player last season in Boston’s farm system.

Between Salem and Portland, he compiled a .443 OBP and led all Boston minor league players in hitting (.322), hits (146) and walks (94).

And in his previous three pro seasons, he’s hit a combined .312 and earned All-Star honors in three different leagues.

Prior to this season, Baseball America rated Cecchini (who turned 23 on April 20) as the sixth-best prospect in Boston’s farm system.

Moreover it honestly could be said that he literally was born with a baseball in his cradle because his father, Glenn, was his coach at national power Barbe High School in Lake Charles, La. – a school that’s won six state championships since 1998 – and his mother, Raissa, was Barbe’s first base coach for 17 years.

“Since Day One they taught me when I was in diapers how to play the game and the right way to play the game … the way to hit and the way to throw,” said Cecchini, who was Boston’s fourth-round pick in the 2010 draft and was added to the team’s 40-man roster last November. “I feel like when I got to the Red Sox they just polished up everything. It was a blessing.”

As further evidence of how deep the baseball roots are in the Cecchini family, younger brother Gavin was the Mets’ first-round pick in the 2012 draft.

Not surprisingly it was baseball 24/7 in the household.

“I couldn’t dream of another childhood to go through,” said Garin Cecchini who, through his first 26 games, was hitting .302 with 14 RBI. “I got to live my dream every single day and I didn’t even know what my dream was at a young age until high school. It was to play professional baseball in the big leagues.

“Both of my parents were coaches. They taught me everything. My mom still throws me BP in the off-season. It’s different, but it’s awesome.”

As any father who has coached a son or any mother who’s coached a daughter knows this type of relationship can be difficult at best.

In Garin’s opinion, that wasn’t the case when he was playing for his father.

“I felt like my dad treated me like every other player,” he said. “I don’t think it was tough. I had to earn my position, believe it or not, because I came from a program that was pretty nationally well-known. We did really well every year. We had good players but I had to compete for a position. I won the job.

“I wasn’t always in the top of the order. I had to work my way up, just like now. I had to earn the respect of my fellow teammates. Nothing was handed to me and that’s what’s helped me along the way here.”

One aspect of Cecchini’s game that’s helped him get “here” is his ability to avoid chasing bad pitches as evidenced by his career .417 OBP.

“He understands the strike zone,” said Boles. “He knows who he is. He knows what his strengths are. His weaknesses as far as strike-zone management is concerned are very minimal at this point from what we’ve seen.

“He’s got such good hands at the plate and works to all fields. You watch him take a pitch and it’s almost like a pause where he’s analyzing where that ball crossed the plate. It’s a little different from other guys. He’s really paying attention to each pitch in each at-bat.”

The ability to do that is even more important considering that in the International League youngsters like Cecchini are facing veteran pitchers – many who’ve had major league experience.

“It’s a small sample (26 games) but his splits against lefties show he’s done a nice job,” said Boles of his lefty-swinging third baseman. “He’s facing veteran pitching. I think that’s one thing you’re not going to face at the lower levels. Every night it’s going to be a new challenge for him.

“He’s stayed in there against left-handed pitching. He’s working to all fields with impact to the gaps right now. He’s taking extra bases. He’s a distraction on the bases and hopefully the attention he’s receiving will help other guys in the lineup.”

Garin Cecchini has gone from under the radar to top 50 prospect this season. Photo by Kelly O'Connor.

Cecchini’s work ethic has drawn praise from PawSox manager Kevin Boles. Photo by Kelly O’Connor.

Depending on what scouting report you read, the primary knock on Cecchini is that his glove has yet to catch up to his bat.

“First of all, they have a right to their opinion,” Cecchini said of scouts who’ve tracked him. “It’s their opinion. I know what I can do. I know what the Red Sox think of me. I know what we’re working on. All I can say is I’m getting better every single day.

“To prove any one wrong, I think there’s a chip on my shoulder to prove people wrong that I’m a good defender. But time will tell. I’ve just got to keep working.”

A chip on his shoulder? How about a boulder on his shoulder?

“You can tell the love he has for the game, not only because he comes from a baseball family, but also because he works at his craft,” said Boles. “He understands his routines.

“His throwing across the diamond has improved. And, overall, his fielding has improved.”

So has his maturity because Cecchini refuses to let all the hype affect him to the point where he needs the equipment manager to measure his head for a larger cap.

That was evidenced when it was mentioned that Baseball America rates him as the best hitter for average and as having the best strike-zone discipline in Boston’s farm system.

“I could plead the fifth on that one because we have such great players in this organization,” said Cecchini. “To be categorized by writers like that is definitely humbling. But I don’t really try to look too much into it because at the end of the day, whatever their opinion is it can change.

“You have to bring yourself every single day. That’s what I’ve learned. If I can bring Garin Cecchini every single day, I’ve be where I need to be at the end of this season.”

Categories: 2013 Pawtucket Red Sox Boston Red Sox Garin Cecchini Gavin Cecchini Jose Iglesias Kevin Boles Will Middlebrooks Xander Bogaerts

Sports editor at The Warwick (RI) Beacon from 1973-78. Sports writer at The Times (Pawtucket, RI) from 1978-1999. At The Times, I was the beat writer for the Pawtucket Red Sox and Providence College basketball. Retired from The Times in the fall of 1999. Have covered the Pawtucket Red Sox in one capacity or another since 1976. One of only two sports writers who covered The Longest Game (the 33-inning game between the Rochester Red Wings and Pawtucket in 1981). Member of the Words Unlimited Hall of Fame (Words Unlimited is a Rhode Island organization of sports writers, sports casters and sports publicists). Blogs in-season with a first-hand look at the Triple-A Pawtucket Red Sox.

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