Garin Cecchini hit his fourth homer of the year on Monday. (AP)
A brief look at the action in the Red Sox farm system on Monday:
TRIPLE-A PAWTUCKET RED SOX: 6-4 LOSS AT SCRANTON/WILKES-BARRE (YANKEES)
– Garin Cecchini, amidst the worst offensive stretch of his career, enjoyed a positive glimmer on Monday, going 1-for-4 with a homer, his first of the month and his fourth of the year. Still, the struggles of Cecchini represent one of the foremost puzzles of 2014 in the Red Sox farm system. A player with a tremendous ability to catch the ball on his barrel and to shoot hits all over the field — while staying back and drawing enormous numbers of walks — has seen his season enter something of a spiral over the last two months.
On May 15, he had a pair of hits to improve his line to a .306 average, .400 OBP and .379 slugging mark. In 49 games since then, he’s hitting .200 with a .262 OBP and .289 slugging mark. And his struggles don’t simply reflect bad luck and a poor batting average on balls in play — Cecchini has 12 walks (6.2 percent walk rate) and 44 strikeouts (22.6 percent rate) during that span, marks that represent a considerable shift from his career norms.
In short, Cecchini — a consistently excellent performer during his professional career — finds himself in an unfamiliar place in Triple-A, with a .243 average, .321 OBP and .326 slugging mark on the year. Evaluators — both inside and outside the Red Sox system — continue to believe that Cecchini will hit, and perhaps the homer on Monday represents the beginning of a strong finishing stretch to his minor league season. But for the first time, Cecchini’s player development path now includes something other than a straight line ascent through the minors, likely delaying his eventual timetable for a regular role in the big leagues.
– Travis Shaw went 1-for-4 while launching an eighth-inning homer, reaching a career milestone. Shaw now has 20 homers on the year between Double-A Portland (11 in 47 games) and Pawtucket (9 in 54 games), one of 29 players in the minors with 20-plus homers at this point. He thus surpassed his previous career-high of 19 homers achieved in 2012. Shaw is hitting .290/.347/.491 in Triple-A and .297/.374/.517 between the two levels.
– Will Middlebrooks went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. During his rehab assignments with the PawSox in July, he’s hitting .269/.315/.493 with four walks and 18 strikeouts.
– Ryan Lavarnway went 2-for-3 with a walk; he’s reached base multiple times in all three of his games since rejoining the PawSox. He’s 5-for-9 with a double and three walks with the PawSox.
– Mookie Betts was Featless, going 0-for-4, ending his seven-game hitting streak.
DOUBLE-A PORTLAND SEA DOGS: 2-0 WIN VS. READING (PHILLIES)
– Blake Swihart continues to cement his reputation as an elite prospect. The 22-year-old went 2-for-4 with his 12th homer of the year, and his fifth batting left-handed against a right-handed pitcher. The switch-hitter is now hitting .306/.358/.498 on the year, including .320/.379/.478 while hitting left-handed — a side of the plate from which he didn’t learn to hit until his sophomore year of high school.
– Right-hander Mike Augliera tossed eight scoreless innings, allowing just two hits (both singles), walking none and punching out four while recording 16 outs via groundball. Though the 24-year-old is 5-9 with a 5.03 ERA this year, his ability to get groundballs in bunches while throwing strikes (he’s walked just 1.3 per nine innings this year) creates the possibility of a Burke Badenhop-ish future in the big leagues.
HIGH-A SALEM RED SOX: OFF DAY
SINGLE-A GREENVILLE DRIVE: 4-0 LOSS AT HAGERSTOWN (NATIONALS)
– Outfielder Manuel Margot went 0-for-2 with a walk. He’s now walked in three straight games, continuing a year in which the 19-year-old has shown a continuation of the solid on-base skills that were on display for much of his 2013 campaign in Lowell. Margot has 32 walks and 42 strikeouts on the year, with the ability to negotiate walks — in tandem with his speed on the bases — suggesting that he has secondary skills that give him value even through cold offensive stretches. In July, for instance, Margot has a significantly below-average .215 average but a slightly below average .315 OBP with seven walks and 10 strikeouts in 18 games. On the year, he’s hitting .260 with a .333 OBP and .408 slugging mark along with eight homers, 27 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases.
– Left-hander Daniel McGrath lasted just three innings — his second shortest outing of the year, and his shortest since his first start in Greenville on May 14) — allowing three runs on five hits and four walks while striking out three. The outing snapped a streak of seven straight starts in which the 20-year-old had tossed five-plus innings.
SHORT-SEASON SINGLE-A LOWELL SPINNERS: 8-5 LOSS VS. BROOKLYN (METS)
– DH Sam Travis went 4-for-5 with a triple, the first four-hit game of his first pro summer. The 20-year-old masher, taken in the second round this year out of Indiana, is hitting .309/.344/.428 through 37 games.
– For the second time in his four games since a promotion from the GCL, Joseph Monge had a three-hit game, going 3-for-5 with a double. The 19-year-old is 7-for-19 (.368) in his four games since moving up, after hitting .266/.390/.453 in the GCL.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE RED SOX: 2-0 WIN, 10-3 WIN AT GCL ORIOLES
(BOX GAME 1, BOX GAME 2)
– Center fielder Trenton Kemp went 2-for-4 with a double and homer, his first longball as a pro since signing with the Sox as a 15th-round pick. The 18-year-old is hitting .226/.293/.321.
– Bryce Brentz went 0-for-3 with a walk. In seven games in the GCL since starting his rehab assignment, he’s 1-for-17 with two walks (one intentional) and four strikeouts.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE RED SOX: 10-1 LOSS AT DSL GIANTS
– Raiwinson Lameda had two of the Sox’ three hits in the game, including a double against a left-handed starter. The left-handed hitting Lameda, 18, is hitting an astounding .647/.700/.882 in 20 plate appearances against pitchers of the same handedness, and .299/.362/.444 overall.