Healthy Cecconi leads D-backs in the AFL

October 20th, 2021

PHOENIX -- Separate wrist and elbow injuries limited Slade Cecconi to just 59 innings this year in his first professional season, but the right-hander is back to full health and ready to compete in the Arizona Fall League.

“The recovery from the wrist, it was just an unfortunate, freak injury,” Cecconi said. “The elbow, the training staff was great with me. Took my three weeks off, rehabbed well, was working with the training staff every day, got me back to the point where I was able enough to be healthy for this.”

When he was active with High-A Hillsboro, the D-backs’ No. 7 prospect posted a 4.12 ERA and struck out 63 across 12 starts. The transition to pro ball is a learning process, and although the 22-year-old didn’t log as many innings as he would have liked, it was still a productive summer overall. Among the lessons the 33rd-overall pick of the 2020 Draft picked up, one stands out.

“I would say, knowing that the mental game is much greater than the physical game in this sport,” Cecconi said. “That’s something that I really didn’t know to the extent that I do now, until this year.”

There’s plenty of excitement and intrigue when it comes to Cecconi. The 6-foot-4, 219-pounder was sitting in the low-90s with his fastball during his first AFL outing, though he’s shown the ability to touch 97-98 mph in the past. Cecconi also possesses a sharp slider, which is in the conversation for the best in the D-backs’ system, and he's made strides with both his changeup and curveball since his time at Miami.

Durability is a bit of a question -- he also missed most of his senior year in high school due to injury -- but Cecconi has a high ceiling and is viewed as someone who could quickly work his way through the system and into the Arizona rotation.

Of course, that doesn’t happen overnight, and Cecconi knows it’s more important to focus on the day-to-day process than it is to get caught up thinking about the potential future.

“Everyone knows that there is a process to get to the big leagues and there’s no way that you can try to rush it,” Cecconi said. “You’ve got to take the necessary steps. You’ve got to earn your stripes, you’ve got to work hard. You’ve got to get bigger, stronger, faster. You’ve got to do all these things that help you not just get to the big leagues, but succeed and have a career in the big leagues. I think keeping that in perspective is huge in the Minor Leagues, even though that opportunity is obviously knocking."

D-backs hitters in the Fall League

Cooper Hummel, C: Acquired from the Brewers in late July, Hummel caught fire after the trade. The 26-year-old, an 18th-round pick from the 2016 Draft, hit .353 with six homers and 37 RBIs over 46 games with Triple-A Reno. Hummel hit .254 with Nashville prior to the trade and has slashed .259/.394/.437 in his career.

Buddy Kennedy, INF: A fifth-round pick from the 2017 Draft, Kennedy hit .290 over 96 games this season and reached Double-A for the first time. He batted .278 over 66 games with Amarillo and showcased his defensive versatility as well. While Kennedy primarily played third base this season, he did spend some time at second and has also played first in the past.

Dominic Canzone, OF: Selected in the eighth round of the 2019 Draft, Canzone worked his way up to Double-A in his first full season. The Ohio State product missed time with a couple of stints on the injured list and played in just 79 games. When healthy, Canzone hit .302/.375/.522 with 14 homers across two levels.

D-backs pitchers in the Fall League

Keegan Curtis, RHP (No. 28): Acquired from the Yankees in July, Curtis immediately impressed in the D-backs farm system. The 26-year-old didn’t surrender an earned run through four appearances with Double-A Amarillo and then was bumped up to Triple-A Reno for the remainder of the season. An injury forced Curtis to miss six weeks late in the season, so he’s looking to make up for lost time and log some additional innings in the Fall League.

Mitchell Stumpo, RHP: Signed in 2019 as an undrafted free agent, Stumpo worked his way through the organization in 2021, his first full season. The right-hander pitched at Low-A, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A this season and posted a 2.63 ERA over 51 1/3 innings. Stumpo notched 66 strikeouts in that span and issued 13 walks.

Shumpei Yoshikawa, RHP: Signed out of Japan in 2018, Yoshikawa is in Arizona making up for lost time. The 26-year-old threw just 21 2/3 innings this season as he missed roughly two and a half months due to injury.