I was lucky enough to check out the St. Lucie team in person twice over the weekend, and thought I’d share a few notes and observations I made about a few of the players. With Brandon Nimmo and Dilson Herrera getting a mid-season promotion to AA, this team isn’t quite as compelling from a prospect standpoint, but there’s enough to make them interesting.
Gavin Cecchini – He’s obviously the main attraction on the team, and I had the unfortunate privilege on Friday night of informing the world via Twitter that he was taken out of the game for being slow to run to first base after strike three got away from the catcher. I honestly think it was more frustration than laziness as to why he stood in the box for a couple of seconds before starting to run to first, as he’s been on the interstate for much of his time in St. Lucie, but that’s by no means an excuse. I do think manager Ryan Ellis was right to pull him, and I do think the message was received. It’s just disappointing to see, because I look at guys like L.J. Mazzilli, Cam Maron, and Jared King, and they’re laser focused and always hustling and playing the game the right way, so there’s no reason for Cecchini not to do the same, regardless of his struggles.
When he played on Saturday night, he had 2 hits and a walk; one was a bullet that hit the pitcher on its way to centerfield, and the other was a soft liner that just had enough to get over the head of the second baseman. I do think despite his early struggles that he’ll eventually start to his in the FSL, but I doubt he ever grows into anything close to a .300 hitter at the upper levels. His value comes in the field, where he was quite impressive. He makes plays that most, but not all, shortstops will make, but he makes them look easy, including a nice bare hand play on a slow roller, and he certainly has enough of an arm to play shortstop considering his range.
Phillip Evans – I liked what I saw; he goes the other way real well, and you can tell he has a fair amount of pop in his fairly stocky frame. Defensively, I don’t see him lasting at shortstop, but he can certainly play there if necessary, while he’s gotten some exposure at third base. If he can hit more than he has, he’ll have a chance to play second base on a regular basis, otherwise, he can possibly catch on as a utility infielder than can play second, short, and third.
L.J. Mazzilli – He’s about the same player I saw last summer when he played for Brooklyn. He makes a lot of solid contact and has a little pop, but his tools don’t really stand out. But he does play the game the right way. He backed up an errant throw from the catcher and was able to throw out the runner at second base. It’s obvious that he plays hard, hustles, and has a good baseball IQ. I don’t know if he’ll get to the big leagues, but if he doesn’t it won’t be for lack of effort.
Cam Maron – I was real impressed with what Maron did behind the plate. He has good receiving skills and frames pitches well, probably not to the level of TDA, but still pretty well. He doesn’t have that strong of an arm, but his throwing fundamentals look pretty sound. He’s also not afraid to take charge and go out to talk to a pitcher on his own, which I like. Hitting wise, he doesn’t have much power, so he’s going to have to hit for a high average to keep moving up. I’m not optimistic about his chances to reach the big leagues, but being from Hicksville and being a late-round draft pick, it’d be a great story if he got spent some time in the majors, even in a Juan Centeno type role.
Jeff McNeil – He was drafted without much fanfare, and to be frank, he’s quite scrawny looking up close, but he’s an interesting prospect as a potential utility player. He doesn’t possess a ton of power, but he does make good contact, and I saw him take a breaking ball and get it over the right field wall about 340 feet away. He also runs really well, scoring from first on a pop up to left field that fell in between the left fielder and the shortstop. Defensively, he’s a natural middle infielder, but he’s played a lot of third base this year because he’s been on the same team as Cecchini and Mazzilli. He does appear to have good defensive instincts, which is great for a player whose future is as a utility player, and I wonder if the Mets try playing him in the outfield at some point to add to his versatility.
Jared King – I also saw King last summer with Brooklyn; he can certainly hit a little and is a workhorse that puts forth full effort all the time. That being said, just as I saw last summer, he doesn’t have outstanding tools and is too much of a tweener, and to me, if it all breaks right for him, he’s still only a 4th or 5th outfielder.
Kevin McGowan – For a guy who’s 6’6’’, McGowan doesn’t throw hard at all. He sits mostly 88-89 and can get it up to 90-91, but that usually comes at the expense of his control. In theory, he has the frame to add velocity as he gets older and puts on muscle, and his off speed stuff is decent enough, but a lack of strikeouts gets him into trouble. He’s had some success this year, but unless he adds velocity or can control his pitches better at 90-91, he’s a prime candidate to get real hard when he gets to AA.
Matt Koch – He’s had a rough month or so, and that was on display when I saw him. He throws hard enough, 90-92, but he’s often up in the zone and has no out pitch, which makes him quite hittable. Speaking of hittable, he also hit 3 batters in 3 innings, which doesn’t bode well. He was a closer in college and his future was always going to be in the bullpen, so that may be helpful because he’s clearly hit a wall as a starter. In shorter outings, he may be able to increase his velocity some, which would help, but until he gets a better out pitch, he’ll continue to struggle.