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Mets snag shortstop Cecchini at No. 12

Mets snag shortstop Cecchini at No. 12

Mets snag shortstop Cecchini at No. 12 play video for Mets snag shortstop Cecchini at No. 12
WASHINGTON -- How's this for an introduction: three days before the Mets selected him 12th overall in the First-Year Player Draft, Gavin Cecchini flew to New York for a pre-Draft workout at Citi Field. There, he met David Wright, who told Cecchini that he hoped the two would soon become teammates. Then Cecchini stayed for the game, which just so happened to be the first no-hitter in franchise history.

"You don't get to see too many no-hitters, and I was there to witness it for the very first time in the Mets' history," Cecchini said on a conference call late Monday night, reflecting on Johan Santana's no-no. "It was unbelievable and the place was rocking, and it really was an awesome thing."

That experience likely played a role in Cecchini admitting that he did not want to be drafted by "any other team besides the Mets." Consider his request granted. One year after taking high school outfielder Brandon Nimmo with the 13th overall pick, the Mets selected Cecchini with the 12th overall pick Monday, stocking their farm system with another premium high school bat.

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"This is who I wanted to be drafted by all along," said Cecchini, the brother of Red Sox third-base prospect Garin Cecchini. "There's not a better place to play baseball than New York."

2012 Draft Central

Cecchini became convinced of that Friday, touring Citi Field and stopping to have conversations with several Mets players. The one that stuck out most was Wright, who talked to him for about 15 minutes and made Cecchini feel "like we were best friends."

"They took me in and treated me as if I was already drafted by the Mets," Cecchini said. "All the players took care of me and were really, really nice."

Three days later, the Mets did draft Cecchini, with MLB commissioner Bud Selig making the announcement in Secaucus, N.J. -- and Wright quickly calling to congratulate him. After shortstop Carlos Correa went first overall to the Astros, the Mets took Cecchini with the 12th pick and Purdue catcher Kevin Plawecki with the 35th, the latter pick a compensatory selection for free agent Jose Reyes signing with the Marlins.

Cecchini, 18, hit .413 with seven home runs, 32 RBIs and 31 stolen bases in leading Barbe to Louisiana's Class 5A state title this season, playing under his father, Glenn. He was named co-MVP of the Under Armour All-America game, and played for Team USA's under-18 gold medal team at the Junior Pan Am Championships in Colombia.

Mets scouting director Tommy Tanous described him as an "offensive shortstop" who "doesn't give away much defensively," which jives with most reports of Cecchini's abilities. The Mets view him as another high-ceiling bat to complement Nimmo, whose first-round selection last year represented a paradigm shift within the organization.

After focusing primarily on college players during Omar Minaya's six-year run as general manager, the Mets made one of the boldest picks in last year's Draft -- Sandy Alderson's first as GM -- by nabbing Nimmo, a raw but talented outfielder whose Wyoming high school did not even offer a baseball program.

Now they have Cecchini to fill another significant hole in their farm system. Heading into this season, the Mets had only three middle infielders ranked among their top 20 players on MLB.com's Prospect Watch. One of those, Jordany Valdespin, has recently logged significant time as an outfielder; another, Reese Havens, has missed more than 170 games due to injury over the past four seasons; the other, Danny Muno, is currently serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drug use.

"I don't think we go into the Draft thinking we want to target anything that's related to the Major League club, or any even specific need in our system," Mets vice president of scouting and player development Paul DePodesta said. "That said, we love middle-of-the-diamond players: catchers, shortstops, center fielders if we can get them. So we do target those players."

Though the Mets have taken a fair bit of criticism for their farm system in recent years, they have also managed to draft and develop numerous big leaguers, including Ike Davis, Lucas Duda, Josh Thole, Jon Niese and Kirk Nieuwenhuis. In addition, 2010 top pick Matt Harvey has been thriving at Triple-A, and is in line to make his Major League debut before the end of the season.

Next on that list may be Cecchini, whose brother, Garin, already ranks among Boston's top prospects. After sitting out most of last season with a fractured wrist, the elder Cecchini has jumped out to a .306 start with a .394 on-base percentage in 50 games for Class A Greenville.

"He just tells me that it's an everyday grind," Cecchini said of brother Garin's experience in professional baseball. "But he knows that I love the game, and he loves the game, too. It's awesome. To be able to play a game and get paid to do it, there's nothing better than that."

And to do it in New York?

"It's awesome," Cecchini said. "I don't want to be anywhere else besides this city, playing for the New York Mets."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["draftcentral" ] }
{"content":["draftcentral" ] }