This week we’ll take a look at two players at the uppermost level of the Red Sox system who are blocked by major league players, and might be best used as trade pieces. Then we’ll check in on pitching potential at the lower levels.
Triple-A Pawtucket: Garin Cecchini, 3B and Deven Marrero, 2B
At the end of the 2014 season, Cecchini got a brief stint in the majors, appearing in 11 games. There was at least some discussion this offseason that Cecchini could be the starting third baseman for the 2015 season. Then the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval to a five-year contract in November, blocking Cecchini’s advancement to the major leagues within the Red Sox organization. This season at Pawtucket, Cecchini has only played in 22 of the team’s 32 games, a result of a shoulder injury that landed him on the disabled list. Generally, Cecchini has not performed very well. In 92 plate appearances he has a .171 TAv. A real issue is that he is striking out a lot, 28 times so far this year, and only has three walks.
One potentially positive development is that Cecchini has moved around the diamond more this season, including accumulating some experience in the outfield. He has played nine games at third base, three games at first base, and nine games in left field. This is certainly a test of Cecchini’s versatility, and for a team that is already flush with outfielders this seems like an effort to show potential trade partners what Cecchini can do in the outfield. It is also possible the Red Sox are grooming Cecchini for a role as a bench player. Regardless of where he is playing defensively, Cecchini’s hitting numbers are going to need to dramatically improve for him to get another chance in the majors, as he’s always been viewed as a bat-first player.
Marrero is in a similar developmental place as Cecchini. He is one of the top Red Sox prospects, ranked 9th by Baseball America, and considered a strong candidate to impact the major league team by the Baseball Prospectus team. Unfortunately, he is blocked by Xander Bogaerts at shortstop, and Dustin Pedroia at second base. He is projected as a plus defender, but there are plenty of questions surrounding his bat. This season at Pawtucket, however, he is hitting well: .281 TAv, 8.6% walk rate, and nine extra base hits in 105 PAs. These marks are all better than they were last season, when he had a .190 Tav, 5.9% walk rate, and 12 extra base hits in 202 PAs. This improvement at the level is nice to see and if he keeps hitting like he is so far this season, he could be a really intriguing player for a team that is looking to acquire middle infield help.
Double-A Portland: Simon Mercedes, RHP
Mercedes was used as a starting pitcher while at High-A Salem last year, but this year at Portland has only been used as a relief pitcher. Things have not been going smoothly thus far. In seven appearances (20.1 innings pitched) he has allowed 11 runs, nearly equaled his hits allowed (11) and walk (8) totals, and only struck out 14 batters. I say only 14 batters because on a rate basis, his current rate is lower than the rate he posted in Salem last season by a little over three percent. The advancement in levels likely accounts for much of that decrease but I would expect that his moving to a relief role would increase the strikeout totals. Though he has served as a reliever, Mercedes has been used in extended outings, typically 2-3 innings, so it is not necessarily the case that he can just come in for an inning and let his fastball burn. With that said, if he is going to end up with a role in the major leagues he will needs to start showing swing-and-miss stuff. His 4.00 FIP suggests that he has pitched better than his 4.43 ERA, but the 4.00 FIP still leaves something to be desired. It is still early days, so the 23-year old Mercedes certainly has time to get things on track.
High-A Salem: Teddy Stankiewicz, RHP, and Ty Buttrey, RHP
Thus far, Stankiewicz has shown that his promotion to High-A was justified. In six starts he has a 3.86 ERA and 2.98 FIP, has struck out 19 batters, and only walked seven, which is a fine ratio. His rates (14.0 K%, 5.2 BB%) could use some improvement, but still look promising. He has yet to allow a home run this season, and has only given up eight extra-base hits. Stankiewicz is only 21-years old, so he is still slightly young for the level, or at least on an appropriate developmental track.
Stankiewicz’s new teammate, Buttrey, made the jump from Low-A Greenville to Salem after making just four starts this season. But those four starts were excellent. In 22.0 innings pitched he posted a 2.45 ERA, 3.24 FIP, struck out a batter per inning, and only walked three. Since joining the Greenville squad Buttrey has made two starts: a rough debut (5.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 0 HR, 6 BB, 3 SO) and a solid second outing (7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 HR, 0 BB, 6 SO). All told he is currently sitting with a 2.25 ERA and 3.32 FIP, which looks pretty nice. Buttrey is eight months older than Stankiewicz, and so is again on a reasonable developmental track. If he can consistently look like the pitcher in his second outing for Salem, he could move up another level later this season.
Low-A Greenville: Michael Chavis, 3B
Michael Chavis is 19 years old and his performance thus far shows some of the struggles that can be expected from players his age. In 99 PAs Chavis has a .207 TAv, and is striking out a third of the time. These marks place him well below league average as an offensive contributor (77 wRC+). Half of his 18 hits have gone for extra bases (six doubles, three homers) which seems promising, except for his only having 18 hits which sort of limits the excitement. Chavis will have time to develop at this level and, as noted in his scouting report at SoxProspects.com, may see his position change to second base or the outfield.
Photos by Kelly O’Connor, sittingstill.smugmug.com