Mets infield prospect Gavin Cecchini has hit the ground running in the early part of this season after a disappointing 2017 campaign.
Cecchini showed a lot of offensive potential from 2015-2016, when he hit .317/.377/.442 for Binghamton and .325/.390/.448 for Las Vegas. In addition, he earned a September call-up in 2016 and went 2-for-6 with two doubles and a hit by pitch.
While his bat seemed to be developing nicely with his high-contact, gap-to-gap approach, his defensive game was very flawed as an everyday shortstop, with an alarming 61 errors in that two-year span.
With the highly regarded shortstop prospect Amed Rosario being promoted to the 51s in 2017, the Mets moved Cecchini to second base in the hopes that it would improve his defensive consistency.
His season was a success in this regard, as he cleaned up his defense down to only eight errors at second base, where he played the majority of his innings. But he took a step back offensively, hitting only .267/.329/.380. He also got a bit of a longer look in the Majors, and struggled to a .208/.256/.273 line over 82 plate appearances.
But after showing up to Spring Training with a new swing and batting stance, Cecchini has gone down to Vegas and seemingly regained his previous form. With a revamped swing which eliminated the long loop that gave him problems last year, he has hit a robust .348/.403/.545 so far. His style has been very reminiscent of the Cecchini from 2015-2016, as he is getting a lot more hits than last year with gap power.
During Spring Training, Cecchini said that due to his revamped swing, the ball was “exploding off his bat.” One of the biggest changes to his swing was the bat angle when he’s in his stance. Last year, he stood with his bat practically pointed straight up, sort of like what Travis d’Arnaud does, but stiffer. This produced a lot of awkward and off-balance swings, which made it much harder on himself to solidly square up the ball.
This year he has been holding the bat at a more traditional, comfortable 45-degree angle that allows him to make quicker contact to the ball. He’s always had quick hands, but his awkward stance last year caused him to lose his balance a lot of the time. The new bat angle allows him to take a simpler, cleaner path to the ball.
Here’s a video from Thursday’s 51s’ game where Cecchini hit a three-run double to tie the game at 4-4.
Notice how his hands are much more relaxed and he has a much shorter, compact swing. This is a very good sign that there is more to come from him.
Another thing to note is how Cecchini has improved his overall defensive value this season. After making 33 errors at shortstop in 902.1 innings in 2016, it looked as though he might never be trusted to get regular playing time there again. But the 51s have moved him around this year, mostly switching him between second and short while alternating with Luis Guillorme. So far, he has regained the defensive steadiness that made him a first-round pick as a shortstop, with no errors in 70.2 innings at shortstop and one error in 77.1 innings at second base. He even played an inning at third base.
This newfound defensive versatility gives Cecchini a clearer path back to the Majors as a utility guy, rather than someone is confined to second base. It may also increase the opportunities for him to prove himself as a hitter in the Majors.
Overall, while many have considered the 2012 first-round pick a disappointment, he made improvements over the offseason that have begun to show up in his results so far in 2018. There have been good signs that he may be finally developing into the Major League infielder that the Mets envisioned when they drafted him.
It will be exciting and interesting to see how the rest of this season unfolds for Cecchini with his future still being unclear.