With the 12th overall pick, the Mets selected Gavin Cecchini, a shortstop out of Barbe High School in Louisiana. He's not a guy who impresses you with his tools or his upside, but he's a polished player who presents a total package that is appealing in an up-the-middle defender. As I said before, he wasn't the most talented guy on the draft board, but he has a very high likelihood of reaching the majors at a premium position, and in every draft class there's usually only one or two players you can say that about. And when you can say it about a guy as young as Cecchini, it's even more special.
As I said, Cecchini doesn't have any single tool that stands out, but that doesn't mean he's not genetically gifted. Gavin's brother, Garin (yeah, how cute), was a highly regarded draft prospect, eventually being taken by the Red Sox in the fourth round. Garin could have gone higher if teams hadn't been scared off by his college commitment. However, he never would have gone as high as his brother did, because he lacked Gavin's ability to play up the middle--Garin was forced to move to third upon moving pro. Gavin, on the other hand, is a much better bet to stick at short. There are six things you look for when assessing a player's likelihood of reaching the majors as a shortstop:
- Size. Bigger guys tend to slow down as they fill their frames out and lose speed. Cecchini has an ideal height and frame for playing short.
- Hands. How often does the player boot, drop, or flub groundballs? Cecchini's hands draw strong marks.
- Infield actions. Does the player look fluid moving about, fielding ground balls? Again, Cecchini is able to do this.
- Footwork. Does the shortstop have agile feet, nimbly moving about? How well do his feet turn the double play? Cecchini certainly has quick feet.
- Arm. This is a biggie, and you can tell right away when a shortstop doesn't have the arm. Cecchini's arm grades as above average.
- Speed. Faster players have more range than slow ones, and this is really the one area that give scouts pause with regard to Cecchini. Cecchini's probably just an average runner (solid-average if you're feeling generous) and some scouts worry he won't be fast enough in the long run.
I give Cecchini five of the six, and I think that the sixth tool is good enough. Even if it isn't, Cecchini is a very bright baseball player, and I think he has the required intelligence to make the speed he has play up through proper positioning. By playing hitters correctly to the situation, a limited defender can field like a good one. I really like his chances to stay at short, and you can never have enough players with that toolset. Defensive spectrum and all that jazz.
But Gavin's not just a steady defender. His bat is probably his best tool. His swing is direct and smooth, augmented by outstanding hand-eye coordination and an advanced approach at the plate. He's selective enough to wait for his pitch but aggressive enough to know when he needs to shorten up and put the barrel on the ball. He won't have huge power, because he's just not strong enough, but he loads his hands just enough to drive them through the zone to drive the ball into gaps but not deep enough to bar his lead arm. A barred arm prevents the hitter from adjusting to breaking balls on the fly. He rotates his hips and does transfer his weight from back foot to forward, though he's not as effective at that. He spreads himself out too far in his stance but still strides forward instead of just shifting his weight with his feet planted. What ends up happening is he loses his balance and falls forward, forcing him to swing off his front foot and resulting in a swing with less power behind it. The final swing of the video below perfectly represents this.
On the basepaths, Cecchini, again, doesn't have more than average speed. But he's a smart baserunner who will pick his spots well, and I can see him stealing 20 one year. He's certainly not a baseclogger.
Finally, there are the intangibles, something Cecchini has in spades. He's a vocal team leader who works hard and has an outstanding baseball IQ. He knows what he's doing out there, and he's the sort of guy who makes it easier for the players around him to play well. That sounds kind of hokey, but remember: these kids have things to learn, and most of them have never really failed before. They aren't as important as talent, but intangibles matter in player development and shouldn't be totally ignored. Cecchini has them. Cecchini is committed to Ole Miss, but signability was not thought to be an issue for him at this slot (a shade under $3 million dollars).
When all is said and done, I expect Cecchini to be a .280 hitter with 10-to-15-homer pop and patience at the plate while contributing average defense at short. Like I said, it's not a superstar talent, but there weren't superstar talents in this draft, at least not at 12, and it's very difficult finding shortstops who project as shortstops at the next level, especially in the high school ranks.