I mentioned in yesterday's article how much I've enjoyed watching David Stearns work this offseason. He's made 8 trades and claimed several players off waivers. He's not done a single thing I took to be a bad move. And while other transaction may be more important or end up providing better value, my favorite move of his was the acquisition of Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox.
On December 10th, right at the end of the Winter Meetings, the Brewers announced they had acquired 3B Garin Cecchini from the Red Sox for cash considerations. I was ecstatic. Cecchini was a player I'd been following for a while. I knew the Brewers didn't have an answer at third base for when Aramis Ramirez either got traded or retired. I also knew Cecchini didn't have a clear path to the majors with Boston. I would occasionally daydream and wrack my brain for ways the Brewers could pry him from the Red Sox. It turns out, all it took was one bad season.
Undeniably 2015 was a bad season for the young third baseman, his worst to be exact. He spent the whole season in AAA--technically he got a short call-up in Augusts--where he hit 213/286/296. I heard that! I heard you roll your eyes and say, "Yikes!" Yes, I actually heard your eyes rolling. I get it. That's a scary triple slash line. But I think there might be outside factors that contributed to its putridity.
His 2014 season wasn't great. But he still hit a solid 263/341/371 in AAA followed by a 258/361/452 during a September call-up. Having been a Top 100 prospect at the time, and considering the lack of alternatives blocking his way after Will Middlebrooks continued struggles, it seemed productive enough that Cecchini had the inside track for starting duties for 2015. Instead the Red Sox signed Pablo Sandoval and Hanley Ramirez, pushing Cecchini back to AAA.
At that point it looked like he would never get the chance to play at third base for the big league club. So they started moving him around. They had him playing first base--a position he had limited experience at--and left field--a position he'd never played before.
Finally, the coaching staff tried to rework his swing in an effort to help him tap into more power. I assume the thought here was that if he was to play LF or 1B he'd need more power than he'd shown. The problem is, his sweet swing--graded as a 60 which is plus--was always geared more toward line drive contact. That's fine at third base, less so at the other corners.
So I think he probably felt deflated at getting passed over after a pretty solid season. The to compound that human factor, the Red Sox started moving him all over the diamond, forcing him to spend a lot of mental energy and focus on defense and learning a whole new position. And to make matters worse they tried to change the swing that made him an intriguing prospect in the first place.
Now, I don't know all these things are the reason Garin Cecchini had such a down year. But I do believe it might have had some affect on him. Now we have to see if he--and the Brewers coaching staff--can help him reverse whatever damage was done. I have no idea if that's possible. But I do have hope.
A few days ago I would have told you it was very probably Cecchini opened the season as the Brewers regular third baseman. Now it's a bit murkier. The Brewers now have to figure out what they want to do about Aaron Hill. My initial suspicion is that he'll be the starting third baseman. My reasoning is that the Brewers will likely want to trade him by the non-waiver deadline. And for that to happen, he'll need plate appearances. I suspect the Brewers will also be hoping to trade Scooter Gennett, which means he'll need plate appearances too.
Garin Cecchini does have a minor league option remaining. So it's easy enough to send him back to AAA. And having had a down season, it might be in the best interests of his development. I think it'll be easier for him to accept that this time around too. And with a new coaching staff, and a secured position, he could force his way back to the majors in short order. That's my hope anyway. Because I think one bad season isn't enough to erase the potential he once had that landed him on several top 100 lists.
Statistics courtesy of FanGraphs