Sarasota, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox batting helmets and bats in the dugout before a spring training game against the Baltimore Orioles at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE
Garin Cecchini, 3B
A few weeks back, we looked at Cecchini, who was at that time struggling to do much of anything after his promotion to Single-A Greenville. He was hitting .246/.338/.298 in 65 plate appearances through April 23, doing little but drawing walks and striking out. He's been on a bit of a tear as of late, though, and has hit .333/.349/.524 over his last 10 games to bring his line up to what you see above.
He drew just one walk in that stretch, but it's hard to argue about it when he's hitting well. It's encouraging, even, to see him walk to first when he was having trouble getting on any other way, and drive the ball when he wasn't struggling to do so.
Lefties have been a problem for him in the early going, with Cecchini hitting all of .243/.317/.270 against them in his first 37 at-bats against southpaws in 2012. It's hard to get too worked up about a 21-year-old struggling against his fellow lefties in his first exposure to full-season ball, though. It's just something to watch long-term.
David Renfroe, 3B
Cecchini isn't the only 21-year-old third baseman at Greenville, as David Renfroe is also on the squad. Renfroe is repeating the level, though, as he spent 2010 with Low-A Lowell and 2011 with the Drive. Renfroe also isn't playing third exclusively, as he's spent time at designated hitter and first base as well.
His youth and bat are reasons to keep him in the lineup everyday, even if he's not playing the position he's listed at very often. His start to 2012 has the makings of a breakout campaign, although it's too early to say that this is how he's going to be the rest of the season. But considering how much better his early returns are than the career line you see underneath it, he's worth paying attention to.
Renfroe's stance has been too open in the past, and helped lead to strikeout rates of 30 and 25 percent the last two years. To start 2012, though, he's whiffing just 17 percent of the time, and drawing walks, too. He's still got a lot of learning to do, as both his offensive and defensive skills need refinement, but there's some talent here, and he might hit himself back onto the radar after being drafted in the third round three years ago.
Madison Younginer, SP
Younginer was a seventh-round selection in the 2009 draft. The 6-foot-5, 195 lb. righty hasn't pitched very well in the pros in his first two years, but he's seen little improvements in his peripherals each season. The 21-year-old has shaved a bit more than half-a-walk off of his walks per nine to start the year, while adding a strikeout on top of last year's improvement. It's too early to say that's going to stick, but it's the kind of progress he needs to make if he's going to start seeing success as a pro.
Younginer induces grounders -- he's got twice as many groundouts as flyouts in his five starts this year -- so the ingredients are there for him to post lower ERA than he has. He's still got problems he needs to solve with consistency in his mechanics, though, and like many young pitchers, the secondary stuff shows promise, but isn't there yet.
It wouldn't be surprising to see Younginer eventually shave his arsenal down to two pitches and become a groundballing reliever with some swing-and-miss stuff, but we're not quite there yet.