Slade Cecconi was a top MLB draft prospect as a high school senior in 2018. The Florida right-handed pitcher had as much upside as any prep pitcher in the draft class. But Cecconi was limited throughout his senior year due to “discomfort and soreness in an area” that caused him to sit out due to precautionary reasons, he said.
A strong commitment to the University of Miami also led him to “prioritizing my health for the long-term future,” Cecconi added.
Those two factors led to Cecconi falling to the Baltimore Orioles in the 38th round of the 2018 draft and him honoring his commitment to Miami.
Now two years after Cecconi went through the draft process as a high school senior, he’s in the midst of the process once again. The draft-eligible sophomore is considered one of the top college hurlers and a potential first-round pick in June’s draft.
“I just absolutely love the game ever since I was young,” Cecconi said. “Now that I see the potential to make a career out of it, it motivates me even more to get to the top level.”
Cecconi split time between the starting rotation and bullpen as a freshman last year. He posted a 4.16 ERA with 89 strikeouts and 18 walks allowed in 80 innings.
The 6-foot-4, 219-pound sophomore right-handed pitcher throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, cutter, slider and curveball from a strong and durable frame. His fastball is his best offering and sits regularly at 96 mph.
Cecconi’s slider is his top off-speed pitch and features depth and break. He has solid command and control of his pitches.
“I would say my command is my biggest strength,” Cecconi said. “I feel like I can command both sides of the plate with any pitch. It’s something I’ve always had as a strength, but it also is something I’ve improved on since I’ve been here.”
Cecconi spent his offseason developing a cutter. He decided to implement the pitch into his arsenal to have an offering that is “more of a true hard slider” to compliment his fastball.
His changeup and curveball also are pitches he’s trying to refine this season. He uses his curveball as a setup pitch to get an early strike or catch an aggressive hitter off-guard due to the pitch’s velocity difference from his fastball and slider.
“I want to keep hitters off my fastball early in counts with the cutter,” Cecconi said. “I like to finish with my slider, but I will maybe throw the cutter later or when I am behind to get a swing and miss or weak contact.”
Miami is 11-4 to start the season. The Hurricanes are considered one of the top teams in the country after posting a 41-win season last year and one of the favorites to make the College World Series in early June in Omaha, Nebraska.
Cecconi has a 3.80 ERA with 30 strikeouts and seven walks allowed in 21 1/3 innings as a full-time starter this season.
“We want to make it to Omaha and win it,” Cecconi said. “This year, we feel like we really have an amazing shot with the talent we brought back and some of the younger talent that came in. That’s always our No. 1 goal. Personally, I want to dominate hitters and become the best pitcher I can be and eventually the best pitcher in the country.”
Read more stories on top 2020 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for five years. He’s interviewed 191 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.