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.