Sunday, 2012 first-round draft pick SS Gavin Cecchini extended his current hitting streak to seven games, during which time he is batting .500/.531/.679 with three doubles, a triple, three walks and seven strikeouts.
This might well be his most productive seven games as a professional.
Cecchini, 20, had an eight-game hitting streak in 2012 with Kingsport, as well as a 16-game hitting streak with Brooklyn in 2013, but he’s never run a slugging percentage of .679 over any seven-game stretch before.
“This is what this game is all about,” Cecchini told MMiLB in April. “There’s going to be ups and downs. There’s going to be failures. The thing is, you gotta be mentally strong and keep going at it everyday.”
Everyday. Every inning. Every at bat. It’s tough for any player, let alone a 20-year-old in his first full season…
“Sometimes you’re going to get the results you want and sometimes you’re not,” he said. “As long as you keep going out there, and having a good approach, and putting up good at-bats and good swings, sooner or later the results are going to be there for you.”
The process, as he learned Sunday, is to start running after contact, even on a frustrating afternoon, during which his Sand Gnats trailed from the start and had their five-game winning streak snapped.
Earlier in the game, Cecchini did not run out a ground ball. He was later removed the game.
The results have started to come for Cecchini in part because he has engaged with the process, but also because he’s buying in to the organization’s approach to hitting and base running.
These days, he sounds an awful lot like a young hitting coach when he describes his approach.
“Just getting a good pitch to hit, you can do a lot of good things – a lot of right things – in your swing,” he told me. However, “if you’re not swinging at good pitches, you’re not going to square up the ball.”
It’s only 122 plate appearances, but the trend is good. His walk rate is way up, he’s already hit two home runs after going homerless a year ago, and his isolated slugging percentage is almost three times higher than it was last year. He’s stronger and making better, harder contact.
He says he’s also trying to learn to take a walk.
“It’s funny – it’s something our organization preaches as a whole: if they don’t give you a good pitch to hit, pass the torch on to the next player,” he said. “And that’s one thing that I’ve really been working on since I got into pro ball: if they don’t give me a pitch I like, and they’re just going to pitch around me, why get yourself out on it? Just take your walk and hand it on over to the next hitter.”
Defensively, Cecchini has shown off the range to play shortstop at a Major League level. He’s looked strong moving to his left having made multiple plays behind the second base bag and even on Sunday, on the right side of second base. His errors have largely been those of a young player not yet old enough to have a beer in a bar: rushed throws, or simply taking his eyes off the ball too long to check on a runner. There are still areas for him to improve: hard hit balls hit right at him have eaten him up, and he can get smoother on his backhand pickups. Still, the skills are there.
Cecchini’s hot streak has taken him to a batting line of .278/.352/.398. Both his on-base percentage and slugging would be career-highs, spanning his three seasons in the low minors. He can be even better.
Why? He says, “I love to play baseball.”