Prospect Profile: Middle Infielder Gavin Cecchini

608325
(MLB.com)

Gavin Cecchini’s prestige has fallen victim to the mob. The mob makes snap judgments on players and sticks with those judgments until they are vindicated, and we hear about how accurate the mob was for eternity, or they’re thoroughly proven wrong, and the mob slinks away into a corner. Cecchini will be a mob litmus test. Billed as a low ceiling/high floor pick when he was selected in 2012, the mob’s snap judgment was as much a referendum on Paul DePodesta’s pet projects as it was an analysis of Cecchini. But for three years, from 2012-2014, the mob was right and Cecchini’s fate as a prized prospect—or as the mob called him, a bust—was sealed.

The mob took a different approach with the Mets’ 2013 first round pick, Dominic Smith. A highly touted, higher ceiling, first base only prospect from LA. Finally, the Mets had used a first round pick on a baseball player. Smith had a smooth swing and a good glove and weight issues be damned, this guy had all the tools. Even when Smith struggled in Sally League, the tools were there and this guy was a sure thing. What’s the deal?

This post isn’t meant to disparage Smith. My opinion differs from the mob—fine. But I’m not labeling the guy a bust. I’m more interested in a player versus player comparison involving these two first round picks across a similar level. Both players hit AA Bingo when they were 21 years old, both approximately 3.5 years young for the league, Cecchini in 2015 and Smith in 2016.

Across 485 plate appearances for Cecchini in AA, he produced a triple slash line of .317/.377/.442. Smith in AA in 2016, across 542 plate appearances, slashed .302/.367/.457. At AA, these two players were a rounding error away from being statistically identical, and they did it in the same ballparks at the same age for the same organization. From the mob’s perspective, however, these two players’ fates are already set in stone. Smith is a future all-star first baseman for the Mets, in the same vein as Keith Hernandez, while Cecchini is bench fodder who will be shining Amed Rosario’s spikes.

Halfway through the article, I’ll ask you to forgive the hyperbole and the straw man if you were not part of the mob, or if you’ve since reneged on your mob-held beliefs, and consider Cecchini for what he is–a right hand hitting middle infield prospect with a bat that just might play. For as bad as he might have appeared to be early in his Minor League career, our own Ted Klein pegged Cecchini for a breakout in 2015. Cecchini showed positive developmental signs in A ball in 2014, slashing .286/.403/.459 in August before his promotion to AA. Indeed, August of 2014 was when Cecchini began making the shift from afterthought to promising.

Since the beginning of 2015, across AA and AAA, Cecchini has slashed .321/.384/.445 over 984 plate appearances, showing continued development from 2015 to 2016, and doing it as a middle infield prospect. In 2016, Cecchini made intriguing progress against right hand pitchers, improving his 2015 VsRHP slash line from .301/.358/.410 (a perfectly acceptable line for a middle infielder) to .324/.386/.439 in 2016 in AAA Vegas. The stats say Cecchini is a decent contact guy with good on-base skills and enough pop to get by as a middle infielder, if the skills can translate to the Majors.

On the defensive side of the ball, Cecchini has left something on the table. Originally billed as a defensive shortstop who drew early comparisons to Zack Cozart, Cecchini’s game was riddled with errors last season, which he explained by saying sometimes he struggles to pay attention on defense—ammo for the mob. But when he’s not busy picking daisies in the field, he still has the skill set to be a fine defensive infielder. Perhaps shortstop isn’t his long-term position, but with Rosario in waiting, and Met long-term options at third and second in flux, there’s reason to believe Cecchini will be in the mix in the Majors sooner rather than later, possibly gaining a foothold in the starting lineup in 2018.

We were fortunate enough to get the smallest look at Cecchini last year, when he put his bat on display against the Phillies during a 10-8 loss on September 24th. Cecchini roped two doubles to left center, both on 95 mph fastballs, one against a righty and one against a lefty. A sign of things to come? We can hope, sure.

Although listed at 6’2”, 200, at the plate Cecchini looks about 5’10” and 180 pounds soaking wet, with a bat that looks like a telephone pole in his hands. But he features a smooth, level swing with solid bat speed that can get around on mid-90s cheddar. We’ll probably see him in the Majors this year from time to time. What the low ceiling/high floor litmus test will ultimately become is still an open question, but there is enough potential in the bat to placate mob fears about Cecchini being an exemplary Paul DePodesta bust.

 

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5 thoughts on “Prospect Profile: Middle Infielder Gavin Cecchini

  1. Greggofboken

    Nice comparison of Smith and Cecchini and the attendant expectations for each.

    I happen to agree with you regarding quickly finding a given narrative for an unknown player and riding that narrative into the dust despite the pile-up of evidence to the contrary. And when it backfires, it can be so counterproductive to the player.

    I’ve found the flavor of the month last year to be the fascination with TJ Rivera.

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  2. Alexander Hyacinthe

    Less concerned with the analysis of the mob mentality, and more with a realistic approach at evaluating the player…while the slash lines showed similarity, 2016 Smith hit 14 HR and 91 RBIs in 484 ABs (542 PAs) – that power plays coming from Binghamton (as opposed to Vegas where it’s inflated)…whereas 2015 Cecchini his 7 HR and drove in 51 runs over 452 ABs (502 PAs) at Bingo…his SLG% was carried by doubles, some of which I can only assume were legged out (although I admit that 3 yrs of 27 doubles in a row is impressive)…

    I think the comparison between the two ballplayers is a bit uncalled for given their track records and projected roles…I just see Cecchini as another utility IF type who is going to have to unseat Wilmer and TJ Rivera for a significant role with the big club – while also avoiding Amed Rosario’s rise to the league…2018 is too soon for him to make a difference, barring catastrophic injury as Matt Reynolds has even produced at the big level without any of the “focus” issues you describe above.

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    1. Chris Malia

      Thanks for commenting. Smith’s increase in HRs was welcomed in 2016, but still, 14 HRs for a first base only prospect isn’t something to write home about. Does that power play? In the Majors last season, 14 HRs would have ranked 21st among 23 qualified first basemen. And although Smith has solid OBP skills, as they currently stand, they’re not exactly elite for first base. The biggest issue with Smith, as I see it, is that he is a first base only prospect. If he had the versatility to potentially play the outfield, the outlook would be much better. But in today’s game, first basemen need to hit a lot, and Smith’s Major League outlook lives and dies with his bat, despite a solid glove. Right now, Smith needs to take another legitimate step forward with the bat, if he’s gonna be seen as a legitimate first base prospect. The point of the comparison to Cecchini was to point out that a guy who has more positional versatility and is, to this point in their respective careers, an equivalent hitter, is seen as a non-prospect. Meanwhile there are fans who view Smith as untouchable, when realistically he shouldn’t be.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Alexander Hyacinthe

        Loving the conversation and thanks for the initial work I enjoyed it quite a lot!

        1st AA Season (w/ age)
        ————
        Rizzo ’10 (age 20 season) – .263/20/80 – .481 slg – 467 PA
        Votto ’06 (age 22 season) – .319/22/77 – .547 slg – 590 PA
        Teixeira ’02 (age 22 season) – .316/10/28 – .591 slg – 200 PA (spent half season at A ball)
        P. Fielder ’04 (age 20 season) – .272/23/78 – .473 slg – 577 PA
        F. Freeman ’09 (age 19 season) – .248/2/24 – .342 slg – 169 PA -.302/6/34 .447 slg A ball – 297 PA
        Goldschmidt ’11 (age 23 season) – .306/30/94 – .626 slg – 457 PA
        R. Howard ’04 (age 24 season) – .297/37/102 – .647 slg – 433 PA
        ————-
        Dominic Smith ’16 (age 21 season) – .302/14/91 – .457 slg – 542 PA
        Lucas Duda ’09 (age 23 season) – .281/9/53 – .428 slg – 467 PA (LOT OF WALKS!)

        It’s an interesting exercise, and given his amount of PA’s you would like to see more power delivered. I don’t see him as that far off from where he should be in terms of his progression…I agree that this is a huge season for Smith in terms of showing and proving, but I see a LH 1B only with a slick glove outperforming Duda at 2 years younger in class AA…add in the idea that he will gain confidence in his power by hitting in a Las Vegas with the lighter air, and I can imagine a ballplayer who develops faith and trust in himself as a power hitter…

        I’m understanding better your point about Cecchini who can be considered a success without displaying the power profile of those 1Bs I listed above, and he has hit for two consecutive seasons at AA and AAA (and showed poise at the MLB level in a small sample), but if we’re completely honest, barring something unforeseen, Cecchini’s rise at SS will be and is blocked by the coming of Rosario…does that mean that he can’t end the year being considered, an elite SS? Absolutely not.

        Either way, I think we do Smith a disservice by the comparison given the different roles each is expected to fulfill.

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  3. Out of Place

    Great work.

    I will admit I am equally down on both. I do think both players will be serviceable Major League players, just don’t have lofty expectations for either player.

    Like

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