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Ceciliani's road to 'The Show' goes through AFL

NY Mets prospect could be Rule 5 pick if not protected
Through Monday, Madras native and New York Mets outfield prospect Darrell Ceciliani is hitting .280 for the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League, the most prestigious prospect league in Major League Baseball.
   "He's seeing the ball well and making contact," Nik Lubisich, Ceciliani's agent, said.
   In his fourth year in the Mets system, his performance in the league is crucial to not just him, but the organization.
   This is what Lubisich referred to as his "protection year," meaning if the Mets like him enough to keep developing him, they can lock him up with another contract, or risk losing him in the Rule 5 Draft, created so organizations can't stockpile prospects and keep them from other teams and advancing their careers.
   While it's tough to speculate where Ceciliani will end up next spring within the organization, or even with them at all, Lubisich said a break-out performance for Surprise could be what the former White Buffalo needs in order to break camp with the big league club.
   "If he does well, it can be a launchpad that puts him on an MLB roster," he said. "He's talented enough to get there, and he's well-liked in the organization. This is a really critical time for him."
   Ceciliani is getting about 16 at-bats per week, plus work in the outfield, Lubisich said, which is typical for players in the league.
   From a sheer numbers standpoint, Ceciliani is holding his own in a league full of baseball's top pitching prospects. With his .280 average entering Monday, he has seven hits, a home run and six RBIs.
   He's sporting an on-base percentage of .367 and is slugging .400, for an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of .767. He has played error-free defense and is also tied for the team lead in stolen bases with three in seven games.
   Ceciliani had been hampered by a nagging hamstring injury, one he aggravated three times after the initial incident, during the season with the High Class Single A Port St. Lucie ballclub in the Mets organization, but he's "feeling good," Lubisich said.
   "It was a real battle for him," Lubisich said. "The mental side of the injury is what can be most troubling about it, but he's come back well and feels great."
   If Ceciliani can stay healthy and keep performing like he has, Lubisich said it may be tough for the Mets to not protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, and potentially stick him on the Double A club in Binghamton or back in High Single A.
   Of course, with anything related to personnel and where they could be, nothing is assured until the front office makes the call, but Lubisich has high hopes for his client.
   "At worst, I think he could be a September call-up next season," he said.
   The real focus right now, Lubisich said, is waiting to see what the Mets make of Ceciliani's play in the AFL and if they want to hang on to him.