Mets rookie infielder Gavin Cecchini hit his first career home run Monday night, and did it against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who is widely considered the best pitcher in baseball.
"It's obviously a good feeling to be able to hit my first home run, and have it to be off of the unbelievable pitcher that he is," Cecchini said after the game. "He made a mistake and hung a curveball, and I put my best swing on it."
According to MLB.com's Anthony DiComo, in advance of facing Kershaw, Cecchini watched plenty of video about the pitcher, plus sought out advice from veterans Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce.
Jun 19, 2017; Cecchini celebrates after his 2-run HR at Dodger Stadium. Credit: Mackson-USA TODAY
"I just tried to tell myself it's the same game that I've played my whole life," Cecchini added, according to DiComo. "Regardless of if Clayton Kershaw's out there pitching or a high school pitcher, I'm going to approach it the same way. ... I put my best swing on it, and I'm happy it went out."
Cecchini, who was selected in the first round by the Mets in 2012, was promoted this past weekend. He had been hitting just .249 at Triple-A Las Vegas.
"We like our young players here, and he's going to be a good player," manager Terry Collins said.
Cecchini entered this season considered the fourth-best position player in the team's farm system, according to MLB.com's list of top prospects. Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus had him ranked in a similar spot on their respective lists.
"Cecchini is never going to be the kind of player who wows with flashy tools," MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo wrote this past winter. "He's more the type that you grow to appreciate after multiple viewings."
In seven plate appearances with the Mets late last season, Cecchini had two hits and two RBI, while playing two games at shortstop.
Cecchini spent most of his time playing shortstop in Triple-A during 2016, but moved to second base this season to accommodate Amed Rosario, who is considered the organization's future shortstop.
I like Cecchini and I'm glad he's getting another chance to show us what he's about. He reminds me of Daniel Murphy in the way he's always playing hard and is willing to do whatever is asked of him because he clearly has a genuine love of simply playing baseball.
He's talented, but - also like Murphy - he is never going to be impress you with any one skill. Instead, again like Murphy, he just hits the ball hard and hustles and will do at least one thing every game to help the team win. He can be a little slow and stiff in the field, especially at the big-league level, where he seems to question his positioning and strength and accuracy of his throws. Frankly, he never looks 100 percent comfortable unless he's in the batter's box, which he clearly views as his office... again, much like Murphy.
At 23 years old and with strong instincts and a terrific baseball IQ, my hunch is that - yes, I'm saying it again - like Murphy - he'll likely earn his stripes being a valuable utility man. During the next few seasons, I bet we see him mostly filling in up the middle, behind Rosario and Neil Walker, and it wouldn't surprise me to see him start getting work on the corners during future spring trainings. If he keeps getting time to play this season, and he keeps hitting, as long as he doesn't make a fool of himself at second base, he could end up giving Sandy Alderson reason to let Walker leave as a free agent at the end of the season.
Mets infield prospects Amed Rosario and Gavin Cecchini (Credit: USA Today Images)
The fact is, Cecchini, Rosario and 1B prospect Dominic Smith have been playing alongside one another all season. And, based on Rosario's Instagram and Snapchat, the trio enjoy one another's company and seemingly get along, act silly and have a good rapport. So who knows, maybe Alderson can find a new long-term, big-hitting, star third baseman, such as Manny Machado, who is a free agent after 2018. So, that guy, Smith, Cecchini and Rosario can make up the organization's next infield.
For what it's worth, unlike Murphy, Cecchini is not shy and not serious. He's got a fun, sort-of silly sense of humor. He's also a low-key, easy-going, Louisiana guy that, when paired with Rosario, who is very confident and much more bold and colorful, make them an interesting pairing on the field. In many ways, Smith's personality is essentially a combination of the two, which could give them the potential to be an entertaining and unique trio off the field in New York, as well...