Just a week into the season, the Red Sox are already experiencing some depth problems at the same position which plagued them throughout 2013: third base. While Will Middlebrooks‘ ineffectiveness was the issue last season, a calf strain which has sent the young third baseman to the 15-day disabled list is the culprit this time around. Even after adding Jonathan Herrera in the offseason, the Red Sox still have a severe weak spot at the hot corner, with a mix of glorified utility men– Herrera, Brock Holt, and newly-acquired Ryan Roberts– competing for the third base job.
All of this internal struggle has been raging while Garin Cecchini, the Red Sox’ top third base prospect and a top five prospect in the system, is raking in his first exposure to Triple-A baseball. With Middlebrooks likely out for the better part of the month, it’s worth asking just how soon Cecchini will be ready for the major leagues, or, perhaps more relevantly, how soon the Red Sox will be willing to promote the soon-to-be 23 year old.
Cecchini had a breakout season between High-A Salem and Double-A Portland last season, slashing .322/.443/.471 with that on-base percentage leading all of the minor leagues. He is getting his first taste of Triple-A Pawtucket to start the 2014 season and has impressed so far, going 6-12 with 3 walks and 1 double in the early going.
Obviously, Cecchini won’t keep up that 1.183 OPS but if he continues to perform at close to the level of his last season, he’ll be knocking on the door of Fenway Park soon. Cecchini projects as a high on-base player, who has displayed good instincts at the plate and on the base paths and could grow into some power before long. Right now, the only knock on Cecchini is his defense at the hot corner; however, Middlebrooks is no Adrian Beltre himself and the impending position battle is going to come down to who hits more.
That battle for the third base job going forward could begin as soon as this season. The question is really how soon the Red Sox are willing to promote Cecchini. They’ll likely take some time to see if any of Herrera, Holt, or Roberts can get hot soon and provide some offense with Middlebrooks’ prodigious pop missing from the lineup. If those players can’t pull it together, however, and Middlebrooks has a setback with his injury, then we could see Cecchini in the first half of this season.