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Red Sox minor league roundup: Making sense of Garin Cecchini’s outrageous OBP; Deven Marrero rebounds; strikeout machines in Lowell

08.29.13 at 12:47 pm ET
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Garin Cecchini OBP watch: .443 (between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland) after going 1-for-4 with a triple and a walk. With his streak of consecutive games reaching base now at 37 (fourth longest in Portland franchise history), Cecchini is pulling away in the race for minor league OBP leader. Allan Dykstra has faded in recent days, slipping to a .436 mark.

A brief history of recent minor league OBP leaders (full-season affiliates only; min. 400 PAs):

2012 – Mike O’Neill (Cardinals): .458 in High-A and Double-A as a 24-year-old. Since: Hitting .329/.429/.374 in Double-A and Triple-A this year.

2011 – David Cooper (Blue Jays): .439 in Triple-A as a 24-year-old. Since: Played 45 big league games for the Blue Jays in 2012, hitting .300/.324/.464, but a back injury led to his release earlier this year. He signed a minor league deal with the Indians this month

2010 – Kila Ka’aihue (Royals): .463 in Triple-A as a 26-year-old. Since: Bounced as a Four-A player between the A’s, Diamondbacks and now Japan.

2009 – John Bowker (Giants): .451 in Triple-A as a 25-year-old. Since: Bounced from the Giants to the Pirates to the Phillies as a Four-A player before going to Japan last year.

2008 – Ka’aihue (Royals): .456 OBP between Double-A and Triple-A as a 24-year-old.

2007 – Brian Myrow (Padres): .451 OBP in Triple-A as a 30-year-old. Since: Played in 33 big league games for the Padres in 2007-08 before bouncing between Padres, Pirates, White Sox and indy leagues.

2006 – Jack Cust (Padres): .467 OBP in Triple-A as a 27-year-old. Since: Spent much of the next five years walking his way through the big leagues, hitting .244/.377/.443 with 100 homers in 600 games from 2007-11 with the A’s and Mariners.

2005 – Pat Magness (Pirates): .481 OBP in High-A as a 27-year-old. Since: Spent a couple years playing in indy leagues.

2004 – Josh Willingham (Marlins): .449 OBP in Double-A as a 25-year-old. Since: It took a while, but Willingham has established himself as an outfield corner with strong OBPs and pop, hitting .257/.360/.476 with 178 homers in 1,005 big league games since the start of the 2006 season.

2003 – Myrow (Yankees): .447 OBP in Double-A as a 26-year-old.

So: What to make of Cecchini in light of his predecessors?

Simply put, he’s in a class by himself. Whereas virtually all of the previous 10 claimants to the title of the best on-base guy in the minors have been at least in their mid-20s, typically while playing at levels for which they were well above the league-average age, Cecchini is showing an advanced approach at a time when he’s younger than the average player in the Eastern League. In other words, he’s putting together the plate appearances of an experienced veteran at a time when he’s anything but. Moreover, whereas nearly all of the players in this list (at least since 2006) benefited from the gravity-free environment of the Pacific Coast League, Cecchini’s numbers have been forged in one environment that’s among the most challenging in the minors for hitters (the Carolina League) and another (the Eastern League) that is hardly a hitter’s haven.

In other words, the fact that Cecchini bears almost no resemblance to the types of players who have shown the kind of on-base skill he’s demonstrated this year represents one of his foremost claims to prospect status.

TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 5-4 WIN VS. SYRACUSE (NATIONALS)

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— Right-hander Matt Barnes has been promoted from Double-A Portland to Triple-A Pawtucket for the end of the season. The 2011 first-round pick will make his PawSox debut on Thursday. More on him here.

— In the first game of his rehab assignment and his first game since a big league game on August 7, Brandon Snyder — on the DL with an elbow injury — went 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts. Manager John Farrell said that the 26-year-old is likely to be called up on or near Sept. 1, when rosters expand from 25 to 40 players.

— Second baseman Heiker Meneses went 2-for-3 with a triple, his first extra-base hit since his promotion to Pawtucket this month. The 22-year-old is hitting .227/.271/.273 in 14 games, but he’s 5-for-9 against lefties (including Wednesday’s triple).

According to Brendan McGair of the Pawtucket Times, right-hander Alex Wilson threw his second bullpen session in three days in his rehab from a thumb injury that has had him on the DL since just before the major league All-Star break. Wilson told McGair that he hopes to return to games by the end of the week. Meanwhile, outfielder Alex Hassan (broken finger) has resumed hitting, suggesting that he could be nearing the end of a DL stint that has now lasted two weeks.

DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 8-6 LOSS AT NEW HAMPSHIRE (BLUE JAYS)

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— Shortstop Deven Marrero, who had been mired in a slump that resulted in his move down from the second to the seventh spot in the lineup, has shown evidence of his emergence from his funk in the past two games. The 23-year-old went 2-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday, and is now 3-for-6 with three walks and a pair of steals in his last two games, bringing his Double-A line back up to .237/.309/.237 in 15 games.

— Outfielder Juan Carlos Linares continues to play with what seems like a renewed sense of purpose. The 28-year-old went 3-for-4 with a homer, and now has a seven-game hitting streak during which he’s hitting .433/.500/.767 with three homers. He’s reached base at least twice in each of those seven contests, improving his line for the year to .252/.336/.394.

HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: 1-0 WIN (WALKOFF) VS. FREDERICK (ORIOLES)

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— Second baseman Mookie Betts reached base in both games, going 1-for-1 with two walks and a steal in the first game and then 0-for-2 with a walk in the second contest. He has 22 walks and 17 strikeouts in 47 games since his promotion to Salem, and 80 walks and 57 strikeouts on the year. His ability to work counts, get on base, and steal — along with his excellent defense at second — suggest a player with the peripherals to be a solid major league role player even if his offensive eruption this year (.306 average, 52 extra-base hits, 15 homers — after none last year) was a one-year mirage. But if he keeps hitting, he’s a potential up-the-middle everyday player capable of impacting the game in virtually every phase.

— Catcher Blake Swihart went 2-for-3 with a double in the first game (while throwing out one of three attempted base stealers), and he’s now hitting .294/.358/.423 in 99 games for Salem, including a .366/.376/.488 line in August.

— Right-hander William Cuevas has accumulated strikeouts in bunches down the stretch. He punched out nine in six innings while allowing three runs in the first game, and in his last seven starts, the 22-year-old has 43 strikeouts (and just 11 walks) in 41 2/3 innings, with a stronger performance than his 5.22 ERA for the season might suggest.

— Right-hander Mike McCarthy threw seven shutout innings, allowing five hits, walking two and striking out three. It matched the longest outing of the right-hander’s career. The 25-year-old recently discussed his offseason plans — in which he will try to help introduce baseball to Kenya — with Salem’s Evan Lepler.

SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 2-1 WIN (11 INNINGS) VS. CHARLESTON (YANKEES)

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— Right-hander Sergio Gomez turned in his best outing since his promotion to Greenville, tossing six shutout innings with three strikeouts in which he gave up just two hits while walking three. The 19-year-old has two straight outings of at least six innings, having yielded a total of two runs in 12 1/3 frames. Between Greenville (where Gomez has a 3.80 ERA in four starts) and Lowell, the skinny native of Colombia has a 2.25 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 23 walks in 72 innings.

— Right-hander Kyle Martin, the Sox’ ninth-rounder out of Texas A&M, fired three no-hit innings while striking out a season-high four. In 34 innings between Lowell and Greenville, the 22-year-old has a 1.32 ERA with 26 strikeouts and nine walks.

SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 7-3 WIN VS. ABERDEEN (ORIOLES)

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— Left-hander Daniel McGrath bounced back from his first poor pro outing to toss six innings in which he gave up three runs on four hits and a walk while punching out seven. The 19-year-old has more than a strikeout an inning (34 in 32) with 2.25 walks per nine in his pro debut, showing swing-and-miss breaking stuff that should allow him to enjoy considerable success at a young age in the lower levels.

— Outfielder Manuel Margot added to his late-season show of pop, going 1-for-4 with a double. The 18-year-old now has six extra-base hits (a homer, triple and four doubles) in his last seven games after having just five in his first 35 contests.

— Right-hander Taylor Grover now has six straight scoreless outings spanning 10 innings after logging two shutout frames with one hit, one strikeout and four groundball outs on Wednesday. The 22-year-old has a 1.69 ERA with 14 strikeouts and just three walks in 21 1/3 innings in his pro debut.

— Right-hander Joe Gunkel, meanwhile, continued to strike out everyone as the Spinners’ closer. He had two punchouts in a scoreless ninth, giving the 21-year-old 21 strikeouts with no walks in his last nine appearances spanning 13 1/3 innings.

ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-1 LOSS VS. GCL RAYS

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— Shortstop Mauricio Dubon had one of the team’s two hits, going 1-for-4 with a double. The 19-year-old, taken in the 26th round of this year’s draft, has a solid .260/.315/.320 line in his first pro exposure.

DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: OFF DAY

The DSL Sox start the best-of-three semi-final round of the DSL playoffs against the Rangers’ affiliate on Thursday.

Read More: garin cecchini, joe gunkel, kyle martin, mookie betts
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