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2023 Arizona Diamondbacks Player Reviews #28: Slade Cecconi

The often overlooked pitching prospect quietly made a late-season debut and pitched some important innings down the stretch.

World Series Workout Day Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images

Overview

  • Rating: 5.07 out of 10
  • 2023 MLB Stats: 7G (4GS), 27.0 IP, 0-1 record, 4.33 ERA, 1.148 WHIP, 101 ERA+
  • 2023 MiLB Stats: 23G (23GS), 116.1 IP, 5-9 record, 6.11 ERA, 1.375 WHIP (all in AAA-Reno)
  • Date of birth: June 24, 1999 (24)
  • 2023 Salary: Pro-rated league minimum ($139,356)
  • 2024 status: Pre-Arbitration/Rookie Status Intact

Slade Cecconi was taken in the first round of the 2020 draft. Selected 33rd overall, Cecconi has always been deemed as one who had a potentially bright future - of only he could stay out of his own way. He made his professional debut in 2021, pitching for Hillsboro and also pitching in the Arizona Fall League. Despite up-and-down performances and some off-field head-butting with teammates, Cecconi secured himself a promotion to Amarillo for the 2022 season. He spent the entire season in the hitter-friendly park and league, putting up some very pedestrian pitching numbers. This, along with the performances of Drey Jameson and Brandon Pfaadt, served to take some of the shine off of Cecconi as a prospect. However, this did not deter Cecconi. He dropped his already low walk rate even lower and continued to punch out nearly a batter per inning pitched. Cecconi was rewarded with a promotion to Reno to open the 2023 season. While the Major League roster continued to undergo changes due to injury and ineffectiveness, Cecconi continued to hone his craft. He managed to increase his strikeout rate to 9.1/9IP, all while keeping his walk rate under 3.00. On of his better outings came when he pitched Reno’s Independence Day game as he tossed seven scoreless innings while also striking out seven.

Finally, after a great deal of roster and rotation tumult at the MLB level, Cecconi was called upon to aid the parent club’s pitching staff. He made his Major League debut on 2 August, facing the Giants away in San Francisco. He went 4.2 innings, allowing two runs while striking out two and walking one. For the next seven weeks, Cecconi was something of a swingman, alternating between starting and throwing from the bullpen. Cecconi’s best outing of the regular season came on 27 August, when the Reds came to Chase Field. Cecconi took the mound and dug in against Cincinnati’s batters. He shoved his was to 5.2 innings of work. He allowed one run on three hits and no walks. He struck out five and posted a Game Score of 64. His next start, five days later, did not go so well. That, combined with the way the Diamondbacks handled their playoff run in September combined to leave Cercconi only one more outing. That didn’t come until 22 September, against the Yankees in a mop-up role.

Cecconi strikes out five Reds in dominant outing

Cecconi’s late-season performance, combined with his demonstrated ability to bounce between rotation and bullpen, as well as long and short outings, secured Cecconi a place on the Diamondbacks’ postseason roster. Cecconi had two appearances in the NLCS against the Phillies. In games two and five, Cecconi pitched a scoreless inning in relief. When Arizona punched their ticket to the World Series, many expected that Cecconi would be the long arm in the bullpen for the series - a series in which the Diamondbacks knew they would be throwing a bullpen game in Game 4, in addition to potentially heavy bullpen usage in Brandon Pfaadt’s start. Alas, it was not meant to be. Cecconi was dropped from the postseason roster in favour of Jace Peterson, a move that came back to bite Arizona quickly, as the team was left without a long arm to come out of the bullpen in Game 1, when the save was blown.

Looking Ahead

The recent acquisition of Eduardo Rodriguez complicates Cecconi’s future somewhat. With four rotation spots now claimed, Cecconi will be competing for the final rotation slot in spring training against the likes of Blake Walston, Bryce Jarvis, Tommy Henry, and Ryne Nelson. If he fails to make the initial cut, the odds are very good that Cecconi heads back to Reno, staying stretched out as a starter for the inevitable day that the team needs a fresh rotation arm for whatever reason, be it injury, trade, double header, or ineffectiveness. However, there is a non-zero chance that Cecconi’s bulldog mentality and ability to shift back and forth without too much difficulty may land him in the bullpen to open the inning as a middle relief power pitcher. The bullpen role seems less likely, given the need to maintain starting depth, but the arrival of other arms through development or trade could change the math.

Regardless of where he ends up, it seems likely that fans can expect to see plenty of him in 2024, probably giving the team 100+ innings of work from the mound, even if he starts the season in Reno. If the Diamondbacks decide to move him to the bullpen full-time at some point, Cecconi’s combination of 60-grade slider and 60-grade fastball, along with his ability to limit walks, should help him force his way into higher leverage, late-inning work. But for now, Cecconi’s future does still seem to be in the rotation for 2024.

Next up: Luis Frias