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Thursday, March 27, 2014
SoxProspects: Thin on corners

By Mike Andrews, SoxProspects.com

Editor's note: This is the fourth of a five-part series on depth in the Red Sox farm system.

While the Red Sox have two very intriguing third base prospects in Garin Cecchini and Rafael Devers, the system is otherwise quite thin in terms of corner infield depth. Here’s a look at the potential starters, bench players, and other interesting first baseman and third baseman in Boston’s minor league system.

POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE STARTERS

Garin Cecchini, 22, hit .322/.443/.471 with 7 home runs and 23 stolen bases between stops in High-A Salem and Double-A Portland in 2013. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Cecchini has impressive offensive tools, including a sweet left-handed swing, excellent bat speed, solid plate discipline, and slightly above-average speed. He profiles as a .300 hitter with continued development, and while his present power is below-average, he has average power potential over the long run. This will be an important season for Cecchini in terms of showing more power. There have been some concerns that he has yet to show much increased upper body strength during his three seasons in the system, and some scouts have commented that his swing can be too level. On defense, he still has some work to do on his reads and reactions, but he has the tools to develop into an average defender. If he make strides with his power and defense, he is a potential All-Star at the hot corner. He’s currently on the bubble for a roster spot between Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, with the PawSox seemingly being more likely to be his starting point in 2014. It will be interesting to see if he gets time at any other positions this season, given the chance that he may be blocked by Will Middlebrooks and possibly Xander Bogaerts at third base in the future. Ultimately, when Cecchini does break into the majors, fans are likely to love him for his drive, baseball IQ, love for the game, and affable personality.

Rafael Devers, 17, has the potential to be a major breakout prospect in 2014. The Dominican third baseman was considered one of the top talents in last year’s international amateur free agent pool, and Boston signed him to a $1.5 million bonus on July 2, the first day of the international signing period. While he has the face of a 17-year-old, he has the frame of a 22-year-old, and carries himself on the field with the confidence, maturity, and swagger of an advanced prospect. He has demonstrated excellent bat speed at the 2013 Fall Instructional League and so far this spring -- the ball really explodes off his bat. He has the potential to develop plus home run power down the road, and should show some of that pop this year. Still somewhat raw on defense, as should be expected, Devers may need to move to first base in the future, especially if he experiences another growth spurt. Look for him the start the season in extended spring training and then with the Rookie-Level GCL Red Sox. He has an outside shot at cracking the opening day roster of Short-A Lowell, which would be fairly unprecedented for a player of his age. Overall, Devers is still a ways away -- he’s raw enough where he could develop into an All-Star, but he might also never make it above A-Ball.

POTENTIAL MAJOR LEAGUE ROLE PLAYERS

Travis Shaw, 23, was drafted as a third baseman but is now primarily a first baseman. After hitting .221/.342/.394 with Portland in 2013, he went on to hit .361/.452/.705 in 17 games in the Arizona Fall League, showing a lot more confidence than he had in the regular season. The son of former major league pitcher Jeff Shaw, he has a well-filled-out frame, a high baseball IQ, and excellent fundamentals. On offense, he has shown average power and impressive plate discipline, but his patient approach will be tested if and when he gets to Triple-A and the majors. He’s likely to return for a third stint in Double-A to start the 2014 season, where he’ll need to show more of what he did in the AFL -- putting the bat on the ball with some consistency. Shaw’s ceiling is a capable backup, but he may also be able to serve as an adequate regular on a small-market club during his peak years.

David Chester, 25, was drafted by the Red Sox in the 33rd round in 2011 out of the University of Pittsburgh. A first baseman with a large, 6-5, 270 pound frame, Chester has above-average-to-plus power, but all of his other tools profile as average or below. In 2013, he hit .271/.354/.465 with 19 home runs between stops in Salem and Low-A Greenville. He’ll likely start 2014 back with Salem, with a shot at earning a promotion to Portland before the end of the season. He’ll be older than most of his competition if he’s in Salem. Overall, Chester will have to show some significant development and versatility this season if he wants to get a shot as a major league bench player down the road. In particular, he needs some improvement on pitch selection and dealing with advanced off-speed stuff. It would be rare for an A-Ball player to show substantial improvement at the age of 25, but it’s not out of the question.

Others to watch: 1B/3B Brandon Snyder, 27, got a cup-of-coffee with the major league club in 2013, and will start the 2014 season back in Pawtucket waiting for another shot ... 3B Carlos Rivero, 25, was signed as a minor league free agent in December 2013 -- he’s above-average defensively and should serve as depth in Portland and Pawtucket in 2014 ... 3B Mario Martinez was picked up off the scrap heap last May, and ended up being one of Greenville’s best hitters in 2013, hitting .285/.328/.424 for the Drive ... 1B/OF Nick Longhi was given a $440,000 bonus after being selected in the 30th round in 2013, and likely will spend this season in Lowell.