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Gavin Cecchini enters 2017 season riding a hot bat

Can Cecchini’s bat give him a leg up on his competition for limited playing time at the major league level?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Boston Red Sox
Gavin Cecchini
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off a 2015 season where his offensive ability took a major step forward, prompting Amazin’ Avenue to rank him the Mets#3 prospect for 2016, Gavin Cecchini excelled once again in 2016. The changes that he made in 2015—most notably a wider, more open stance at the plate and a more level swing—continued paying dividends, producing an impressive .325/.390/.448 batting line. His .325 batting average ended up third in the league, behind teammates Brandon Nimmo and T.J. Rivera, who posted .352 and .353 averages, respectively.

While the hitter-friendly environments of the Pacific Coast League certainly helped, Cecchini’s ability to hit was no mirage. Possessing above-average bat speed and excellent hand-eye coordination, the shortstop has parlayed his quiet, level swing into an ability to hit just about any pitch. It was the faith in his bat to continue producing hits that kept the 23-year-old on Amazin’ Avenue’s top prospect list for 2017, where Cecchini was ranked 7th top prospect.

While nothing can take away Cecchini’s success with the bat, his ability to play defense is another matter. He committed a comically high 33 errors in 2016, up from 28 in 2015, and 27 in 2014. The root causes of his defensive miscues seems to be below-average range and below-average arm strength, forcing Cecchini to rush his footwork and throws. The Mets have been hesitant to move him off shortstop, where those glaring weaknesses really stand out, but a shift to second base is not necessarily a cure for the defensively challenged infielder. It will certainly help mask his deficiencies, but there is no guarantee that they will be eliminated from his profile as a player.

Cecchini will start the season with the Las Vegas 51s, but it is all but certain that he will accrue major league at-bats throughout 2017. With veterans Asdrubal Cabera, Wilmer Flores, Neil Walker, and Jose Reyes all on the MLB roster, playing time may be scarce for Cecchini. Complicating matters further is the presence of fellow minor league infielders Rivera and Matt Reynolds, and top prospect Amed Rosario, all of whom will be competing for already limited playing time throughout 2017.