Editor's note: This is the fourth of a five-part series on depth in the Red Sox farm system.
In this installment, we look at the corner infield position. Compared with other positions, the Red Sox are somewhat limited in terms of minor league depth at this spot. The only player that profiles as a potential major league regular is 3B Garin Cecchini, who has yet to play above Low-A. The best of the rest include two potential bench bats and a former first-round pick who has yet to live up to his draft pedigree.
Garin Cecchini, 21, hit .305/.394/.433 with Low-A Greenville in 2012. A fourth-round pick in 2010, Cecchini has impressive offensive tools, including a sweet left-handed swing, excellent bat speed, developing plate discipline, and average speed. He profiles as a .300 hitter with continued development, and while his present power is below-average, he has slightly above-average power potential over the long run. On defense, he still has some work to do, but he’s developing into a solid-to-average third baseman. Overall, he has the tools and the drive to develop into an All-Star at the hot corner, but he’s at least two seasons away from the majors. He should spend most of 2013 in High-A Salem.
POTENTIAL BENCH PLAYERS
Travis Shaw, 22, is capable of playing both third base and first base, but profiles better at first. 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 impressive plate discipline at the A-ball levels, but his patient approach will be tested at the higher levels, as it was with Double-A Portland in the last quarter of 2012. He’ll need to show he can put the bat on the ball against advanced pitching in a return stint with the Sea Dogs in 2013. Shaw’s ceiling is a capable backup, but he may also be able to serve as an average regular on a small-market club during his peak years.
Kolbrin Vitek, 23, was selected in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 draft. He has yet to live up to that draft billing, either from a scouting standpoint or a performance perspective. His offensive tools just haven’t shown much development since coming out of Ball State. As for performance, in three minor league seasons he’s put up a career line of .270/.340/.377. On defense, he’s yet to show that he can be a capable third baseman, and therefore may be better suited for right field. All that said, he does have polished mechanics, a solid approach, average power potential, and a strong arm. But he’ll need to make ample strides in 2013 to avoid hearing the “bust” label. He’ll likely open the season with Portland.
Mauro Gomez, 28, was the MVP of the International League in 2012, hitting .310/.371/.589 with 24 home runs for Triple-A Pawtucket. The big first baseman also managed to hold his own in limited time with Boston. At this point, he doesn’t profile as a major league regular due to his overly aggressive approach, but he could make an impact in short bursts if he gets called up as an emergency injury replacement. However, he may also be the leading candidate to be the next player removed from the 40-man roster when space is inevitably needed, so there’s no guarantee he’ll be with the organization for the entire season.
Others to watch: 1B Mark Hamilton and 3B Drew Sutton should split corner infield time with Gomez at Pawtucket, both serving as emergency depth. Also, 1B/3B Michael Almanzar has all the tools in the world, but he seemingly lacks the drive and work ethic to make it to the majors. However, hitting .300 for Salem in 2012 may have earned him a promotion to Portland for 2013. First baseman Boss Moanaroa and 3B/1B David Renfroe should break camp with Salem along with Cecchini. Both are still young with considerable tools, and are worth keeping tabs on.