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Red Sox minor league roundup: Power and projections for Garin Cecchini; Wendell Rijo ahead of the (aging) curve)

07.17.13 at 12:02 pm ET
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Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini hit his seventh homer of the 2013 season. (WEEI.com)

Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini hit his seventh homer of the 2013 season. (WEEI.com)

Garin Cecchini looks like a lock to hit for average and get on base at an excellent rate in the big leagues. His pitch recognition and selection, plate discipline and ability to square up a baseball are all standout assets that had one evaluator at the All-Star Futures Game wondering if he could position himself to contend for a batting title someday.

The ability to hit for average and get on base — things that Cecchini has done incredibly well this year, hitting .349 with a .466 OBP between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland — suggest an above-average everyday player, regardless of whether he emerges as a power hitter.

“He could be Bill Mueller,” noted one evaluator, referring to the former Red Sox third baseman who won a batting title in 2003 while spending most of the year in the bottom third of the order.

But there’s also at least a chance that he could exceed even that impressive comparison. After all, there is a generally accepted belief in baseball that power is the last skill to develop. A player with an ability to square a baseball consistently can learn how to backspin and loft the ball down the road. A player like Kevin Youkilis, for instance, posted typically unimpressive home run totals in the minors but then emerged as one of the top sluggers in the American League for a number of years with the Red Sox due to his plate recognition, ability to square the ball and strength. He figured out a swing that could result in driving the ball over the fence rather than just spraying line drives.

There’s at least a chance that Cecchini could follow a similar formula. In the All-Star Futures Game, the left-handed hitter drove one ball to the warning track in left-center for an out and later turned on a fastball and pulled it into the right field corner for a double. Then, back with Double-A Portland on Tuesday, he blasted a solo homer to right-center (part of a 1-for-3 day with a walk), his second in 21 games since getting promoted, and his seventh overall in 84 games this year. It’s a modest total, to be sure, but projects to double-digit homer totals, in a year when Cecchini is also on pace to hit 40-plus doubles. He’s slugging .538 for the year. There’s at least a chance that there’s more in the tank.

“He’s a [No. 3 hitter] if the power comes on. Sometimes it does,” said one evaluator of Cecchini. “Usually, you want the guy to be able to be really accurate with the barrel, stay inside the ball, hit the ball as he does and then as he matures, gets a little stronger, he picks his spots and turns on the ball a little bit more. He’s got a chance to be a double-plus bat, for sure, and hopefully show average power.”

That, in turn, would make for a very good big league regular.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: OFF DAY

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 5-1 LOSS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

(BOX)

Travis Shaw looked like he was heating up in late-June, but the last two weeks have seen the first baseman take a step back. In hit last 11 games, including an 0-for-4 Tuesday, he’s hitting .083/.175/.222, having gone 3-for-36 with four walks and 11 strikeouts. Despite a solid OBP (.348), he’s hitting just .223 with a .381 slugging mark.

– Right-hander Kyle Kraus, in his Double-A debut (the third level he’s pitched in this year), tossed four shutout innings in which the 23-year-old allowed just one hit and one walk while striking out two. All of his outs came via strikeout (2) or groundball (10).

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: OFF DAY

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: OFF DAY

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 5-4 LOSS VS. GCL RAYS

(BOX)

Wendell Rijo is 17, having signed last summer as one of the Sox’ most prominent additions in the Red Sox’ international amateur market. The Sox were drawn to the second baseman — the son of a scout — in part because the fact that he had grown up in and around the game permitted him an uncommon advancement, a feel for the game and a mature offensive approach that are rarely seen in the 16-year-olds to whom teams commit hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars on an annual basis.

It was that uncommon maturity and advancement that led the Sox not only to sign Rijo but convinced them that, rather than following the typical development path of a first pro season in the Dominican Summer League, he would respond favorably if challenged by skipping a level with an aggressive assignment to the Gulf Coast League. Though Rijo saw mixed results early, hitting .167 (with a .342 OBP thanks to plate discipline that netted eight walks) in nine games, he’s enjoyed intriguing success of late. He went 4-for-5 with three doubles on Tuesday, and in his last eight games, Rijo is now hitting .462/.545/.654 with five walks and no strikeouts.

It’s a short sample, of course. But the performance represents a promising early sign of a player with the potential to force an aggressive development path in the stages of his career.

– Converted catcher Oscar Perez threw three innings of no-hit ball, walking one and striking out two. In his first exposure to pitching, the 21-year-old has held opponents to a .175 average while working to a 4.09 ERA in five appearances.

– Outfielder Bryan Hudson continued to produce in his pro debut, with the 15th-rounder going 2-for-4 to improve his line to .300/.420/.425.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 12-0 WIN, 1-0 WIN AT DSL ROYALS

(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)

– Right-hander Jose Almonte added to a strong pro debut with four shutout innings in which he gave up two hits, struck out five and walked two. In 31 innings, the 17-year-old has a 1.80 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 13 walks. He’s given up no more than two runs in any of his seven outings.

– Third baseman Victor Acosta went 2-for-7 while total four RBI in the doubleheader. The 17-year-old is hitting .271/.362/.508 with runners on base, helping him to 21 RBI in 33 games, a mark that is in the top 20 in the DSL.

– Outfielder Raiwinson Lameda, 17, went 3-for-5 with a double and triple in the first game, then went 0-for-3 with a walk in the second game.

Read More: bill mueller, garin cecchini, Kevin Youkilis, wendell rijo
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