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June 29, 2013

On-base machine Cecchini making his case at third base

Portland Sea Dogs third baseman Garin Cecchini, one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox system, entered yesterday with a .416 on-base percentage in 945 minor league plate appearances.

That’s 82 points higher than recently demoted Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks’ on-base percentage in 1,735 minor league plate appearances.

Cecchini certainly is showing terrific plate discipline, the ability to work counts and get on base. That is what separates him from the free-swinging Middlebrooks and makes Cecchini the more likely candidate to be the Red Sox’ long-term solution at third base.

“I’ve felt consistent really since (playing at) Lowell,” said Cecchini who just recently was promoted from Single-A Salem to Double-A Portland. “It’s just a matter of putting things together where you know which pitches you can drive and which pitches you can swing at and hit well. That all comes with time. I guess time’s on my side.”

Time is on his side. Cecchini just turned 22 on April 20. A 2010 fourth-round pick out of Barbe High in Lake Charles, La., Cecchini tore up Single-A Salem in the same fashion Red Sox prospect Jackie Bradley Jr. did last season.

In 214 at-bats at Salem, Cecchini hit .350 with a .469 on-base percentage, .547 slugging percentage, 1.016 OPS, five homers, 33 RBIs, 19 doubles, four triples and 15 steals. Entering Friday, he was 7 for 21 (.333) with a .417 on-base percentage with Portland.

“That’s how I help my team win — I get on base,” Cecchini said.

Cecchini vs. Middlebrooks

Middlebrooks showed tremendous power last summer (15 homers, 14 doubles in 267 at-bats) during his rookie season with Boston. He also had a .288 average.

But three concerning stats stood out: his .325 on-base percentage, 13 walks in 286 plate appearances and a rather higher-than-normal .341 batting average for balls in play. The latter indicated his average would drop this season.

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