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The Gavin Cecchini Dilemma

There is probably not hotter prospect in all of baseball right now than Amed Rosario. He recently played in the Future’s Game, Keith Law recently ranked him as the number 14 overall prospect in all of baseball, and the Mets have called him untouchable in trade discussions thereby assuring he is going to be the Mets shortstop of the future. Given the fact that he is hitting .405/.471/.568 with six doubles and three triples in 17 games at AA Binghamton after dominating the Florida State League, the natural question arises as to when he will get called-up to AAA, so he can work on what he needs to work on there before taking over as the Mets shortstop for the next decade or more.

There’s one problem with aggressively promoting Rosario right now. Gavin Cecchini is currently the shortstop for the AAA Las Vegas 51s.

The 22 year old Cecchini was the Mets 2012 first round draft choice (12th overall). He is a well regarded prospect in his own right being listed as the 89th best prospect in all of baseball by Keith Law heading into the season. He was also MLB.com’s 87th best prospect. He was ranked so high as he hit .317/.377/.442 hitter with 26 doubles, four tripes, seven homers, and 51 RBI for AA Binghamton last year. His play in AA merited him a promotion to AAA where he has so far hit .319/.395/.447 with 17 doubles, two triples, five homers, and 40 RBI. Overall, Cecchini’s statistics alone establish that he’s a worthwhile prospect that should not yet be pushed aside.

Ultimately, statistics aside, Cecchini projects to be a good to very good major league hitter. He could quite possibly be the best contact hitter in the Mets’ minor league system. Cecchini has a nice compact swing who hits the ball with authority from gap to gap. In many ways, he reminds you of a right-handed younger Daniel Murphy at the plate. When his body begins to fill out some of those doubles may begin to turn into home runs at the big league level. While he may not be an All Star, he could very well be an above average regular.

There is one problem with Cecchini. Since he has been in the Mets system, he has mostly struggled defensively. This season is no different with him having an extremely poor .916 fielding percentage. While he has been willing to put in the work and do extra work on the side with Wally Backman, the results just aren’t there. Given the presence of Rosario, the natural inclination would be for the Mets to just move Cecchini to second base. This would create room for Rosario at shortstop, and the two can begin building a chemistry together as a future double play combination.

However, the Mets cannot do that as the Mets second baseman of the future, Dilson Herrera, is currently Cecchini’s double play partner in Las Vegas. The Mets have long been high on Herrera. Two years ago, the Mets gave him an 18 game cup of coffee due to a number of injuries. Last year, the Mets called him up to the majors rather quickly when both Murphy and David Wright went down with injuries. While Herrera didn’t produce much during either short stint in the majors, the tools are all there to be a very good major league hitter. He is still only 22 years old, and he has hit .302/.356/.487 while playing in AAA. Herrera can very well make an All Star Game or two on the basis of his bat alone.

And yet, there are some warning flags with Herrera. While he has good hands, he does not project to be a plus defender at second base. Additionally, he has seemingly taken a step back in AAA this year hitting only .278/.330/.465 in what has been an injury plagued year. He has become much less patient at the plate seemingly swinging at everything instead of working the count and getting a pitch to drive. It is somewhat troubling, but he is still only 22 years old, and he has shown he can be a terrific hitter. It is way too early to give up on player who can be a terrific hitter who has plus power for a middle infield position. Accordingly, you can’t just move Cecchini to second.

So what do you do with Cecchini? There are no easy answers.

The Mets could try to move him to third base where he could serve as insurance against David Wright‘s back. Given his lateral mobility and his arm, Cecchini could play the position. However, given Cecchini’s lack of true home run power, he doesn’t have the type of bat that could play at a corner infield position. Furthermore, removing Cecchini from shortstop would only serve to diminish his potential trade value.

Indeed, the Mets could look to trade him like they are apparently willing to do with any prospect named Amed Rosario. However, if the Mets were to do that, they would be parting with a player who has shown he could be a viable major league player. If the Mets were to part with Cecchini, they would be losing a big insurance policy. Rosario and Herrera could falter or get injured like some can’t miss prospects do. In the event that happens, Cecchini could prove to be a valuable piece who takes advantage of his opportunity. Mets fans saw this happen as recently as 2013 when Jacob deGrom established himself as a front line starting pitcher while Rafael Montero became an also ran. In essence, it is important to have depth, and Cecchini is certainly that.

Still, there is no doubt that Rosario and Herrera are the better prospects right now, and you cannot have Cecchini blocking their path to the majors no matter how good Cecchini is. The Mets could make him a third baseman or utility player thereby making him a better option for the big league club, but also diminishing his trade value. Overall, there are seemingly no good answers as to what the Mets should do with Cecchini. In some ways, it is a dilemma. In others, it is a good problem to have.

With the Mets looking to improve their roster in the hopes of both making the postseason and winning the World Series this year, the Mets may very well have to include him in a trade to get that player who puts them over the top.  It’s also likely teams will force the Mets to give up Herrera in a trade.  In either event, the problem will have been solved for the Mets.  In the event that neither one is moved at the trading deadline, things will become interesting for the Mets.  Ultimately, it is going to be very interesting to see how this whole situation eventually plays out.

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