Cecchini, Saguaros lock up AFL West

Boston prospect collects three hits, Surprise clinches division

Garin Cecchini has 17 walks and 13 strikeouts in the AFL this year. (Jason Wise / MiLB.com)

By Jake Seiner / MiLB.com | November 11, 2013 3:31 PM ET

Garin Cecchini has been hard at work this fall, trying to improve the way he replicates his swing and approach from at-bat to at-bat. Monday's results reflected his progress.

Boston's No. 7 prospect went 3-for-3 with two walks, an RBI and a run for Surprise as the Saguaros clinched the Arizona Fall League West with an 8-2 victory over the Scottsdale Scorpions.

"You always want to play in the playoffs," Cecchini said. "We have a great group of guys. It's one of the best teams I've ever played with."

The third baseman began his day with a ground-ball single to the left side, then walked in the third inning and came around to score on a grand slam by Milwaukee's No. 12 prospect Mitch Haniger. Cecchini led off the fifth with another free pass.

He added singles in the seventh and eighth innings, including an RBI knock in his final at-bat. The perfect day raised his AFL average to .283 with a .449 on-base percentage and a .782 OPS.

The ability to get on base has been Cecchini's most notable asset since entering professional ball as a 2010 fourth-round pick by Boston. This past summer, Cecchini split his season between Class A Advanced Salem and Double-A Portland, posting a .322 average, a .443 on-base percentage and a .915 OPS.

The 22-year-old has been making tweaks to his swing this fall, trying to recapture some stability and consistency he'd lost since the beginning of the 2013 season.

"I'm trying to be the complete player the Red Sox want me to be," he said. "I'm trying to stay on my legs throughout my swing. Keep my swing through the zone a little bit longer.

"When you make an adjustment, it's probably going to get worse before you get better because it's something different. It's something I was doing at the beginning of the year and then I got away from it."

Cecchini said the experience with the Saguaros coaching staff, headed by Double-A Bowie manager Gary Kendall, has helped him discover fixable holes in his game that he thinks will help him as he approaches the Major Leagues.

"I'm glad they were able to point that out to me a couple weeks ago," he said. "That's what they're here for, to make you a consistent big league player."

In the third, Haniger staked Surprise to a 4-1 lead with a grand slam, his fourth home run of the season. After a torrid start with Surprise, the 22-year-old outfielder had slowed of late, hitting just .256 with one homer over his previous nine games. The grand slam was Haniger's only hit Monday. He also walked once and struck out twice.

Braves prospect Kyle Kubitza doubled in a run for Scottsdale in the bottom of the second. The Scorpions cut the lead to 4-2 when No. 2 Yankees prospect Mason Williams doubled and scored from third on a wild pitch in the third.

Surprise dominated the game from there, though, posting a pair of runs in the fourth and two more over the final innings. Cleveland's No. 5 prospect Tyler Naquin went 3-for-4 with two runs and an RBI in the victory.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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