Gavin Cecchini started the 2013 season where he ended it, in the Class-A (short season) New York Penn League, with the Brooklyn Cyclones. But the Penn League was not a proving ground in 2012, as he only played in five games, starting just one, and pinch running in the other four.
The shortstop, 20, has begun the season productive, consistent, and was noticeably bulkier than last year; he approximated he put on about between 10-12 pounds, in a conversation in early June. Regularly hitting second or third in the lineup, he’s had a hit in six of the eight games the Cyclones have played. He put together a five-game hitting streak, collecting three multi-hit games in that stretch.
Those numbers are a continuation of what he achieved in Rookie Appalachian League, where he finished with 47 hits, 9 doubles, and 23 runs scored in 2012.
In game five of this season, hitting in the two hole, he did a little bit of everything. He’d finish the game with 2 hits, a stolen base, and a run scored. In the first at-bat, he hit the second pitch he saw through the middle, later stealing second. He’s not a big base-stealer (stealing just five last year), but he’s appeared aggressive in every area of play, in every game I’ve seen him.
That aggressive approach also showed up in his defense. When a ball was hooking foul, and destined for the stands, he stayed on it, running hard until it was completely out of play. But it can also cross him up. As it did in his second at-bat. He looked like a different player, less assured and patient. He swung at three straight pitches, showing a lack of bat control, in a blink-and- you-missed-him turn at the plate. In that plate appearance, he struggled to slow himself down and swing cleanly, getting out in front of the ball all three times. Harnessing that energy, which could just be anxiousness and excitement, is key to his growth this year.
He also showed an ability to make adjustments throughout the game. Though he struck out in his next at-bat, his pitch recognition looked improved, as did his patience, when he laid off of a fastball on the outside corner. He jumped on a letter-high fastball, lifting it for a hit to right field. Keeping his hands low on the bat, and rotating his hips nicely, he generates good right-handed power, using his upper half. Whether that can be attributed to adding muscle remains to be seen, but it was a great example of the power he’s developing; power that is still raw. He was a lot leaner last year, and has said he tired easily, so the decision to add a little more power to hit with and field his position, can only help advance his development.
In the 8th, with the Cyclones trailing by two, he singled to left-center, and later scored a run. He also made a concentrated play in the 10th, taking his time to get to a ball that was difficult to track in heavy winds that night.
His long legs are a plus, and don’t work against him by making him over stride on the basepath. His footwork at shortstop is both quick and smart. When he tried too hard for power at the plate, he failed. But when he swung the bat through the zone more smoothly, and just tried to put the ball in play, he got on base.
The Mets selected Cecchini in the first round (12th overall) of the 2012 MLB Draft out of high school, taking something of a risk. But there was a lot to like then, and early on when he was being scouted in middle-school; he’s a natural defender, and an intelligent hitter with good bat speed. His lean, muscular build, athleticism, and tool set project well, and should translate successfully to the majors.
So far this season, he’s putting together consistent at-bats, working through difficulties quickly, and doing a solid job as a middle infielder.