March 16, 2012 at 7:50 AM
Position: Third base
2011 Team: Lowell Spinners
2012 Projected Team: Greenville Drive
Opening Day Age: 20
Strengths: Cecchini possesses a sweet swing from the left-side of the plate, smoothly unfolding when bringing the head of the bat through the hitting zone. Generating plus batspeed, he is capable of barreling up a lot of offerings with his easy swing and produces strong backspin when driving the ball to all fields. Cecchini shows the ability to keep his hands inside of the baseball to create hard contact against high velocity fastballs. He has the hit tool to develop into a solid-average-to-better hitter for batting average at the major league level. With upward plane in his swing path, the ball comes off his bat with solid carry when squaring up offerings. Cecchini uses his hips well to turn on pitches middle-to-in. He clears through fastballs in this spot to pull them hard towards right field and also extends well on offerings out-and-over the plate to drive them with lift to the opposite field. He creates easy power. Although presently of a lean, wiry build, as Cecchini matures into his mid-20s his power can translate to produce 20 or more home runs. He took well to the organization’s philosophy of being patient at the plate during the early stages of his hitting development last season. Jumpy and fidgety in spring training and the first couple of weeks with Lowell, he settled in to show a quick learning curve with his patience at the plate against the more advanced professional pitching. Cecchini has the ceiling of an All-Star caliber major league third baseman.
Development Needs: Cecchini’s 2011 season was cut short by a fracture-inducing pitch to the wrist causing him to lose development time, especially defensively. A former shortstop, he is athletic, but needs work with his reads at the hot corner. Cecchini showed slow reactions and was too stiff. His feet often looked stuck in the mud on balls hit his way. Experience and repetition are the keys to his defensive improvement. Given a full season to play third base, he has the defensive tools to make strides over the course of the next year. However, his progression towards becoming a solid-average defender will take time as he learns the proper angles and continues to get used to the speed of the ball off the bat. Cecchini displayed the early makings of understanding the importance of being patient at the plate, but does struggle with breaking balls. He shifts his weight early during his stride, while bring his hands too far forward to roll over or wave over the top of offerings with break in the dirt. He guesses in counts as well. This causes him to open early against fastballs at times and yank the head of the bat through the hitting zone. Cecchini loses his ability to create strong backspin in these instances, instead pulling the ball with too much topspin. His development as a hitter capable of producing high amounts of solid contact in higher levels and beyond is strongly tied into his progression against secondary offerings. There will be times of growing pains, especially as he begins to go up against pitching with multiple years of professional experience.
2012 Outlook: Cecchini began ramping back into baseball activities during the Fall Instructional League and by the end was airing it out in batting practice sessions. Completely healed and ready to go, he enters minor league camp slotted in as the starting third baseman with Greenville. He may feel his way out against the competition early in the season, but his quick adjustment during the 2011 season is a strong indication that he can settle in nicely this year in the South Atlantic League. Cecchini’s dedication to seeing pitches and working counts will put him in position to get pitches to drive to all fields. While breaking balls may still give him trouble, he is an excellent fastball hitter and likes to use the whole field. I see him producing a lot of solid contact at this level and capable of reaching double-digit home totals. The physical grind of his first experience in full-season ball is likely to cause him to hit a mid-summer wall though. 2012 is a season to make development strides both offensively and defensively. Cecchini has excellent overall tools that showed early translation into game action in the New York-Penn League in 2011. With continued progression learning the game and polishing his needs, he has a strong chance to show as a rising position player with a bright future ahead of him.
Position: Second base
2011 Team: Greenville Drive
2012 Projected Team: Salem Red Sox
Opening Day Age: 20
Strengths: Coyle’s compact swing enables him to fluidly rifle the barrel to the point of contact. With a quick trigger, his strong hands and forearms allow him to generate excellent batspeed, while guiding the head of the bat through the hitting zone on a consistent plane. Coyle is capable of turning around fastballs middle-to-in with authority. His strong bat control and ability to square offerings up consistently give him the hitting tool to develop into a future .285 hitter at the major league level. Although small in stature, he is very well filled out in the lower body and strong through the core. He shows a sweet spot for driving the ball with backspin into the left-center field gap. Coyle profiles as doubles hitter, with the pop to approach 12-14 home runs in the big leagues as his hitting talent matures. He demonstrates an early understanding of the importance of working counts. Content with taking strikes to make opposing pitcher come into his hitting zones, Coyle shows the makings of a grinding approach at the plate. He drives pitches in the fat part of the plate. Defensively, he made a smooth transition to second base as a professional. A fundamentally sound defender, Coyle fronts balls well and has the reflexes to adjust his glove quickly to tough bounces or pick balls on short hops. His footwork around the bag steadily improved when turning double plays and his solid-average arm allows him to get enough velocity behind off-balance throws. Coyle has the ceiling of an everyday second baseman, capable of hitting in the number two hole in a deep lineup.
Development Needs: Coyle is patient at the plate in that he does not chase many offerings wide of the zone, but is inconsistent with his pitch selection within the strike zone. This aspect of his offensive game needs tightening as he moves up the ranks of the organization to fully reach his potential as a high contact hitter. Coyle tries to attack fastballs above the belt frequently where he has trouble getting his hands above the baseball to make good contact. This leads to lazy flies in the air or swings-and-misses due to coming up underneath these offerings. He needs to bring the focus of his eyes down lower and also reduce his aggressiveness in attacking every fastball in the upper tier of the strike zone. While Coyle drives offerings middle-to-in well, he struggles covering the outer third of the plate with his swing. He punches at the ball rather than leading with his hands when trying to hit to the opposite field. He can also try to hook pitches in this area, which leads to rolling over the ball to pull it weakly on the ground or loop around it to swing-and-miss. As he begins to face higher caliber pitching with finer command, Coyle will need to prove he can do damage the other way to prevent opponents from busting him away consistently. Although he presently has slightly-above average speed, his range at second base is only average. His body looked stiffer during the Fall Instructional League and he runs the risk of losing footspeed by gaining bulk muscle into his mid-20s. Projecting as a future major league regular is strongly tied into his offensive development. Coyle lacks infield versatility outside of second base and likely will not have value as a utility infielder if he cannot hit at the level of a starter.
2012 Outlook: Coyle heads into the game schedule of minor league spring training with a firm hold on the starting job at second base with Salem and is set to begin an assignment in High A when the season gets underway. His approach and pitch recognition will be pushed by the step up in competition this year. This will be a good test for Coyle to hone his batting eye. With improved selection, he should see an uptick in his contact rates at this level. He will not be able to swing through as many offerings, however, and produce high levels of solid contact. Showing improvement using the entire field is a good sign Coyle is adjusting his approach and evolving into a hitter who does not just consistently pull the ball to hit it hard. I would expect him to show good doubles power with Salem as the result of using the whole field more due to an increase in his hitting zones and forcing of opposing pitchers to work to his strengths at the plate. There will be growing pains in 2012 if he is solely trying to pull the ball though. This year serves as a season for Coyle to work on polish his rough edges offensively to prove he is ready to make the jump to Double-A in 2013. I see his age-advancement having the potential to show in High A, but his mature approach to the game gives him a good chance to adjust and take development strides forward as the season unfolds.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen