On Garin Cecchini’s Improvements

One of the rebuilding strategies employed by Slingin’ David Stearns during his first offseason as Brewers’ general manager was to bring in myriad “post-hype” prospects. Among those players was former Red Sox third base prospect Garin Cecchini. The sweet-swinging lefty put himself on the map with an outstanding 2013 campaign between high-A and AA where he hit .322/.443/.471 with 47 extra base hits, 23 stolen bases, and more walks (94) than strikeouts (86). After entrenching himself in the various top-100 prospects lists, Cecchini earned himself a cup of coffee in late 2014 with Boston and impressed with a .268/.351/.452 slash and .311 tAV across 36 plate appearances with a home run and three doubles.

Unfortunately for Garin, the win-now Red Sox elected to spend big money to bring Pablo Sandoval in off of the free agent market prior to the 2015 season, relegating Cecchini back to AAA. With third base blocked at the big league level, Cecchini began moving around the diamond, appearing at first base and left field as well as the hot corner. In addition to learning a couple new positions defensively, Garin began tinkering with his swing. He’s never been much of a power threat, but he made some changes in an effort to begin driving the ball with more authority.

The results were disastrous. He was never comfortable at the plate and in 117 games with Pawtucket in 2015, Cecchini posted a meager .213/.286/.296 batting line (.216 tAV). Not only did he not accomplish the goal of hitting for more power with only seven home runs, but he struck out at a rate in upwards of 21 percent, well above his career average. The Red Sox designated Cecchini for assignment in December of 2015 and the Brewers acquired him for cash considerations on the final day of the Winter Meetings.

Cecchini began this season with AAA Colorado Springs hoping to rediscover the form that once made him a highly-touted prospect. In order to do that, however, he needed to once again find the swing that helped him consistently post .290+ batting averages in the lower minors.

The above video are some highlights of Cecchini from his nightmarish 2015 season. He stands in a rather upright position with his knees slightly flexed, hands held high around his ear level and with a bit of an uppercut in his swing while searching for more power.

Now, here’s a highlight of Cecchini from the 2016 season, and it’s not difficult to see the differences. Garin is in more of a crouched position with greater flex in his knees this year, holding the bat a little bit higher than he was last season and producing a more level swing-plane.

Thanks in part to the adjustments that he’s made this year, Garin is enjoying a nice rebound campaign in the hitter-friendly confines of Colorado Springs. Through 66 games he’s hitting a solid, if unspectacular .281/.338/.386 with 14 extra base hits and six steals, good enough for a .273 tAV that comes in a little better than league average and is a significant improvement over his work from last year. He’s cut his strikeout rate nearly in half down to roughly 11 percent and is still taking walks at around a nine percent clip, as well.

Aaron Hill and Chris Carter are currently handling the corner infield positions up in Milwaukee, but it’s likely that both will be trade candidates in the run up to this year’s deadline and could find themselves donning new uniforms by August 1st. If one or both of those two players are moved, that could open up a real opportunity for Cecchini to get some extended playing time at the big league level. That’d be especially true if the club elects to keep Orlando Arcia in AAA longer in light of Jonathan Villar’s (himself a buy-low, post hype prospect) unexpected success at shortstop this season.

Now that the 25 year old Cecchini is back to his patient and contact-oriented ways, he could be back on the path to becoming the player described in the 2015 Annual as “someone who can challenge for a .290 average with a strong walk rate and enough pop to keep pitchers honest. What they all agree on: He’s got plus-plus makeup and seems likely to get the most out of his natural abilities.”

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