The Salem Red Sox are stocked with young prospects up and down the lineup.
Such is the raw talent in Boston's Class A Advanced affiliate, five of the organization's top eight hitting prospects are suiting up in the Carolina League this season.
Two of those -- Garin Cecchini and Deven Marrero -- are expected to play a big role in Boston's future. On Monday, the pair gave fans a brief glimpse into how the left side of the infield at Fenway Park could look in a few years.
Third baseman Cecchini went 4-for-4 with two stolen bases and a run scored, while first-round shortstop Marrero doubled three times in five at-bats to lead the Salem Red Sox to a 7-6 win over the host Potomac Nationals.
"We have so many good players on this team, it's unbelievable," Cecchini said. "I don't want to look to far into the future, but we could have so many big leaguers here. You could look back 10 years from now and say, 'Wow, that team was really good.' We have a lot of good players and a lot of good people on this team."
Batting fifth, Cecchini's combination of bat control and speed -- his two main calling cards -- caused the Nationals problems all evening. He singled, stole second base, tagged up on a fly ball to right field and scored on a ground ball to shortstop Jason Martinson in the second inning. He singled again in the third then once more in the fifth, the latter leading to another stolen base. In the eighth, Cecchini doubled to right field but was stranded at third base.
Marrero, meanwhile, doubled to right field in the first and popped up to first base in the second. He doubled back up the middle to lead off the fifth and seventh before striking out in the ninth.
"We swung the bats well today. We had fun and we came out with the victory," said Marrero,
chosen 24th overall in June's Draft. "My job is to get on base for [Keury] De La Cruz and [Brandon] Jacobs so they can drive me in. That's definitely my role. I'm not a big guy, I just try to hit the gaps and get on base for the guys behind me."
The outing raised Cecchini's early batting average from .182 to .400, and it bolstered Marrero's mark from .333 to .412.
While the organization's top two prospects -- Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr -- are in Portland and Boston respectively, the next wave of hitters are not too far behind. Among Boston's Top 20 prospects are 12 hitters, five of whom were in the top two-thirds of Salem's starting lineup Monday.
Louisiana native Cecchini is Boston's No. 8 prospect and their top third baseman in the Minors, while catcher Blake Swihart, infielder Marerro and center fielder Jacobs make up the next three spots on the list. De La Cruz, Salem's No. 3 hitter, ranks 15th among Red Sox prospects.
"It's a lot of fun," Marrero said of the prospect-laden lineup. "It's definitely a great environment. We all love to play the game and we all trust in our skills. We were all loose and having fun."
With so much talent on one team, players are having to adjust to different roles.
Cecchini, for example, led the organization with 51 steals in 2012. While he batted third in Greenville and projects as a leadoff hitter down the line, Cecchini bats fifth for Salem.
One reason for Cecchini hitting so far down the lineup is
Arizona State University product Marrero batting second, which means De La Cruz -- a prototypical table setter -- has to bat third. With Jacobs hitting cleanup and Sean Coyle bumped up into the leadoff spot, Cecchini drops to fifth in the crowded lineup.
"I don't care where I bat, everyone will get their at-bats," said Cecchini, s
elected by Boston in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft. "The top of the order may get one more at-bat, but we get the same at-bats off the same pitcher."
For Cecchini, it's all about improving every day and working on his tools, particularly his speed, which he says makes him stand out.
"I don't think any other corner infielder can bring that to the table," the 21-year-old said of his speed and instincts on the basepaths. "Not all middle infielders or outfielders can bring that. It's a huge part of my game and I treat it very seriously.
"I just want to get better at one percent of my game every day, whether it's hitting or defense or baserunning or getting my body stronger. As long as I'm maturing to be a big leaguer, that's my goal."