Should Garin Cecchini Man The Hot Corner In 2015?

cheechWith inconsistency at third base, the Boston Red Sox may want to explore some other options at the position. Combining the struggles of Will Middlebrooks all throughout the year due to injury and Brock Holt in the second half, there is no one definite answer. Perhaps signing Pablo Sandoval may do Boston some good, but he is appealing to a number of teams and is by no means cheap.

A top prospect in the organization, perhaps Garin Cecchini could help fill the void at third. Certainly, he is an option. In 11 games for Boston, he clipped .258/.361/.452 with three doubles and a home run.
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He looked comfortable at third, committing just one error in his big league tenure while providing versatility with his ability to play the outfield.

A major plus for Cecchini comes from his splits. Sure he struggles against left-handed pitching, but he can hit righties without a problem. Slashing .272/.356/.376 during his tenure in Pawtucket while facing north paws, he made it clear he is ready for the next level on that side of the plate in conjunction with the fact that he hit .333 in 96 at-bats for the Paw Sox in August.
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When it comes to Cecchini’s game, it may appear as though he lacks power however, this is not the case. Sure he may not be a David Ortiz who smashes 30 bombs with ease, but he provides the right amount.

Standing tall at 6 ft. 3 and weighing in at 220 lbs, he managed to pop eight home runs between Boston and Pawtucket while adding 24 doubles and a triple. He is the type of guy who very well could hit double digit home runs (12-15), providing his team with serious gap power.
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The only reason why Cecchini would not be an option in the big leagues is a lack of experience. Amassing just 407 at-bats in Pawtucket, some may consider that rushing him to the top level. Instead, perhaps, he should see upwards of 750 at-bats in AAA before he is brought into such a high-pressure environment.

Also, maybe the .356 OBP versus right-handed pitching is not high enough. Maybe he needs a .400 OBP with a .900 OPS before earns his right to be there.
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Cecchini, who was considered a first round talent back in 2010, fell to the fourth round because he tore his ACL as a senior in high school. That is why he did not start his pro career until 2011. His brother Gavin was a first round pick by the New York Mets in 2012.

Do Not Give Up On Will Middlebrooks

will middlebrooksTo the common eye, the Boston Red Sox are in a real hole when it comes to third base next season. Will Middlebrooks is struggling, Brock Holt is slumping and Garin Cecchini is not ready to take over the  big league job. Although Cecchini is an appealing option at third, he is still a few hundred AAA at-bats away from being ready for the big league level. As controversial as it may sound, Will Middlebrooks is the most likely candidate to win the starting third base job next season.
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Sure, he got demoted last year for having the lowest OBP in the league and sure he is not exactly hitting above the Mendoza Line this year, but it is not time to give up on Will Middlebrooks. Although a .182/.249/.260 slash line for the 26-year-old Texas native in 53 games may say otherwise, it is still way too early to give up hope.

Keep in mind—this is the same guy who clubbed a homerun once in every less than 20 at-bats in 2012-2013. This is the same guy who slugged .500 against lefties in that same time frame. Is he playing as well now? Absolutely not.
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Since the All-Star break, Brock Holt’s slash line has plummeted down to .219/.278/.271 in 45 games. A sub-.300 OBP is never a good sign, but Holt is still, nonetheless, a valuable contributor to a big league club. Perhaps he may take some reps at third base next season dependent on the performance of Will Middlebrooks early-on-in.

Middlebrooks will be spending some time in winter ball this offseason, but right now it is not apparent when or where. Of course giving him some extra at-bats will be beneficial, especially when he gets to work with different hitting instructors.  He may learn something new there or get back in a groove — at this point it could not hurt to try. Who knows? Maybe he finally gets to play in 140 games and unleash that 30-homerun power Bill James and many other great baseball minds dream of.

Will Middlebrooks Struggling Since Callup

Will MiddlebrooksSure, it’s only 12 been games since Will Middlebrooks was activated on August 1, but the third baseman has yet to hit a home run or show any sort of power since making his return to the Boston Red Sox after fracturing a finger in his right hand in May.

With players like Garin Cecchini and even Brock Holt waiting in the wings, Middlebrooks really needs to start showing signs of improvement at the plate.

In 41 at-bats entering August 18, the 26-year-old has hit .171 with a .220 slugging percentage and a .209 OBP. The .429 OPS is the worst among players on the team with the same amount of games/at-bats since the All-Star break.

The 10 strikeouts to two walks is right around his career average, but Middlebrooks has really been better at putting together good at-bats by taking pitches he used to swing at. He may be swinging through a lot of fastballs in the zone that he used to crush, but eventually those balls should be flying off his bat.

The plate approach is one sign that he is working on becoming a better overall hitter all while dealing with swelling and pain in the same fractured finger.

With six weeks left in the season, Middlebrooks needs to just show the Red Sox he can stay healthy while also being a power source towards the bottom of the lineup. If that means still striking out at a high rate and having a batting average that isn’t something to write home about, then the team should be all for it, especially if he keeps the long at-bats going.

The pop will eventually come for the right-handed slugger and once he hits his first since his activation more should come. First he has to show that he can stay on the field for an extended period of time.

Brock Holt Not Just A One-Hit Wonder

brock holtIn the game of baseball, there are many players who have only one “good” year in their entire careers. In music, this phenomenon is known as a “one-hit wonder”. Most recently, the Boston Red Sox had a big one in 2012 and his name is not Will Middlebrooks.

Pedro Ciriaco played for the Boston Red Sox in 2012 and 2013, but did not finish the 2013 season in Boston. In by far the best year of his career he owned a slash line of .293/.315/.390 for Boston over the course of 76 games for the club. He also played all over the field providing serious versatility for Boston although he primarily played third base. 2013 was not nearly as productive for him as he owned a slash line of .216/.293/.353 and was subsequently designated for assignment in June.
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Brock Holt is in the middle of a great year for the Boston Red Sox this year, but he is coming back down to earth. On the year Holt owns a slash line of .299/.348/.420 although he has cooled off considerably since the all-star break. Since then his slash line is all around reduced sitting at .194/.260/.254 over the course of 67 at-bats. Since he is slipping, many fear he is going to only be a one-hit wonder but this simply is not the case.

Although there are many similarities between Holt and Ciriaco, they are not the same player. Sure both came from Pittsburgh, owned Major League experience before hand, play all around the field, and had great seasons with Boston while the team as a whole struggled, but Brock Holt is not Pedro Ciriaco.
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The most prominent example of this is OBP. In his career year for the Red Sox, Ciriaco had a dismal .315 OBP, just 22 points higher than his batting average. In his 188 game big league career spanning five seasons, Ciriaco has struck out 88 times while walking 18 times. By no means does he have good plate discipline. Holt on the other hand is somewhat of a mainstay at the plate. His OBP is 59 points higher than his batting average which is not outstanding, but decent to say the least. In his 127 game big league career, Holt has walked 35 times while fanning 86 times. Sure Holt strikes out more than Pedro Ciriaco — most hitters do. On the other hand, Holt gets on base more than Ciriaco by a considerable amount as well making him more valuable in that regard.
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In the future although Brock Holt is a talented player, do not expect him to be the Brock Holt of the first half of this year every year. He definitely has the makings to be a great utility man, but he is not someone who Boston needs to rely upon at third base as a big bat in their lineup in the future. He always makes plenty of contact and plays great defense anywhere. Even if he ends up being a .260 hitter lifetime, Holt is still a great player who will always give 100% effort and contribute to the Boston Red Sox in years to come.

Red Sox First Half Report Card By Position: Third Base

Red Sox First Half

The Red Sox first half saw five starters at third base, so needless to say, things haven’t gone as planned. Will Middlebrooks, aka Mr. Jenny Dell, is hopefully returning from his second DL trip soon. Meanwhile, Xander Bogaerts is begrudgingly holding down the fort after getting booted from shortstop by Stephen Drew. Brock Holt has also seen a bulk of starts at the hot corner in his tour of the field, while Jonathan Herrera and Ryan Roberts have seen eight and seven starts respectively.

Middlebrooks had a great spring training, which was a good sign after a poor postseason last year. However, just a week into the season, the injuries began to come and he still hasn’t settled into the season. After breaking his finger exactly two months ago, Middlebrooks suffered one setback from swelling of the finger and more recently, another setback by straining his wrist sliding into a base. At this point, his trade value is much lower than it should be and the Sox would be getting pennies on the dollar for him. WMB was the only bright spot on Bobby Valentine’s failing 2012 Red Sox, so maybe he can add some hope to a subpar 2014 Red Sox team if he can return soon.

The fill-ins, Herrera and Roberts, really played as you would expect them to. Well, actually a bit worse than that. While at third, Herrera was 3-24 with one RBI and Roberts was 2-18 with zero RBI. Combine those numbers and you have a .119 average; both committed one error in the field.

Brock Holt was seen last year during Middlebrook’s demotion, where he split time at third with Brandon Snyder. Holt hit .203 with only two extra base hits in 26 games and was an after thought at the beginning of this season. However, since nobody else could get the job done, Holt was called upon and has been the best hitter on the team. Holt has seen most of his starts this year at third and has been the team’s best defensive option at that position, but he has been able to hit consistently at every position he’s played. Capping off the first half with a five hit performance on Sunday, Holt pushed his average up to .327 and found himself just two behind David Ortiz for second most hits on the team, despite playing in about 30 less games. Holt will continue to get some spot starts at third, but that’s pretty much the case at every position.

Xander Bogaerts took over at third base in the postseason and showed great poise and potential. However, once he shifted over this year, something went wrong. At shortstop, he was hitting, drawing walks, and was maybe the team’s most consistent hitter. His defense wasn’t great, but it wasn’t as terrible as his defense at third has been. He’s barely held his fielding percentage over .900 and his OPS while playing at third has been under half of what it was while at short. HALF! OPS is a number that should never be cut in half, but for Bogaerts it was .816 at shortstop and is .406 at 3B. Hmmm, .406 was also Ted Williams’ batting average in 1941. Hopefully, Bogaerts collected himself over the All-Star break and will be hitting like he was before Stephen Drew joined the team.

Will Middlebrooks- Grade: D-

Roberts and Herrera- Grade: F

Holt- Grade: A

Bogaerts (As 3B)- Grade: F

How Does Will Middlebrooks Fit In?

Will MiddlebrooksWith Will Middlebrooks set to return to the Boston Red Sox soon, it leaves John Farrell with some serious questions. One of those pressing questions is pertinent to Middlebrooks’ playing time and how Boston implements him when he finishes his rehab assignment.

Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal reported earlier in the week that Boston is entertaining the idea of playing the career third basemen in the outfield in an effort to give him more at-bats. Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time Boston has toyed with playing Middlebrooks in the outfield. Back in 2012 when he made a Brock Holt-esque emergence, Bobby Valentine pondered shifting Middlebrooks to the outfield due to Kevin Youkilis’ presence. But instead, they decided it was not beneficial for Will, because they believed it may compromise the — at that juncture — third basemen of the future’s career.

The outfield was a mess for a good portion of the year. However, Daniel Nava is hot and will be hitting against right-handed pitchers until he cools down, Shane Victorino is close to coming back, and Brock Holt is……well, Brock Holt. Really, there’s no room for Middlebrooks in the outfield pending an unforeseen injury. Even then, the Red Sox have Jackie Bradley Jr. and Jonny Gomes, whom they’ll start over Middlebrooks in the outfield in a heartbeat. So this begs the question: where does Will Middlebrooks fit in? He’ll obviously be an excellent pinch-hit power-bat — regardless if he finds kind of, sort of regular playing time. However, there is an evident role for “WMB” to slide into upon his return. And that is playing third base when a southpaw is on the hill.

There are two, maybe three, benefits in doing so.

To start, Stephen Drew is horrendous against left-handed pitching while Middlebrooks is the clear superior in that regard. Farrell can ride the platoon and maximize lineup efficiency. Next, this allows Xander Bogaerts to see time at shortstop, which is the position he wants to and is expected to play in Boston for a long time. He can grow more acclimated to the nuances of the major-league shortstop position, instead of repeating the same struggles he confronted at the position in the beginning of the year. Do you really anticipate Bogaerts to be able to play short well with almost a year reprieve from it?

Finally, this gives Boston a chance to work Middlebrooks into the lineup, although I’m not sure if that is necessarily a good thing. He’s really scuffled the past year and a half after a rookie year of dominance. It’s uncertain whether or not he will help or hurt Boston if he is to see moderate playing time. The following scenario of starting Middlebrooks against lefties can, and probably will come to fruition. Ultimately, though, the effectiveness of this decision will be determined by Middlebrooks’ play.