Toronto Blue Jays Top 10 Prospects #3 Bo Bichette

Bo
Clutchlings/Future Blue Jays photo

 “Windshield'” is a term Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins likes to use to describe someone who has insight into a baseball situation as a result of past experience.

    When it comes to Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr, both future stars have had “windshields,” into what it takes to be a First Division player as a result of watching their famous Fathers playing the game.  Speaking on Sportsnet’s At the Letters Podcast, he expanded on the value of that experience:

  When you watch your Dad and what it took to become a major league star, and then you come into the game and it’s not real or something that’s a dream – it’s something I watched my Dad did that I can follow in those footsteps….I can do that, it’s not intimidating to me….often times players that are extremely talented that haven’t had that exposure come into an environment where all of a sudden everyone is as good as me….but the guys who have had that windshield make it something that is very attainable.

Blue Jays SS prospect Bo Bichette led the minor leagues in hitting over two levels, and captured a lot of attention as he flirted with .400 in late June.  Over his first two seasons of pro ball, he’s hit .372/.427/.591.  After entering pro ball with concerns among a number of scouts about his unorthodox mechanics, the Blue Jays have left him relatively untouched in terms of adjustments, which he has demonstrated he can capably do.  The pre-load bat waggle has calmed a little bit, but Bichette still creates bat speed that is borderline violent, and unlike a lot of modern bashers, he’s content to cut down on his swing with two strikes and put the ball in play.

This sample of ABs shows both that swing, and the modified two-strike approach:

 

At the plate, Bichette has pitch recognition skills that are probably second only to Guerrero’s in the system.  Despite that swing, he uses the whole field; his spray chart is a thing of beauty:

Bo Spray Chart
MLBfarm.com

 

A sampling of scouting reports:

Matt Powers covers the Braves’ minor league system, and came away impressed after watching Bichette at Dunedin:

   Bichette has an aggressive approach for sure. He comes up swinging, and swinging aggressively. While he’s aggressive, I wouldn’t say he’s a free swinger. Bichette has an idea of the strike zone and a plan at the plate. When he gets two strikes on him he becomes less aggressive in his swings and more contact oriented.

Jason Woodell follows players in the Florida State League, and wrote an extensive essay about Bichette’s swing.    His summary:

It is my opinion that Bichette’s bat is so quick through the zone that his increased load allows him to remain on his back leg long enough to recognize the pitch and then use his hips and hands to attack.

A knock against Bichette in the field is that he plays “with his hair on fire”; that is, he tends to rush plays and make forced errors.  Steve Givarz of Baseball Prospectus gave him a 50 grade for his glove:

   Has quality footwork and hands but can rush throws and make poor decisions. I worry about his side-to-side range as he matures, but he has quick reactions and a quality first step. Has the arm to make all the necessary plays for SS. Has played some second base in the past, could be a plus defender at either second or third.

Bichette is not a burner on the basepaths, but because of his slightly above average speed and well above average baseball IQ, he is a huge asset on the bases.  He can steal a base (22 for 29 at two levels this year), and his smarts on the bases allow him to recognize trajectories and other factors to take an extra base when necessary.

The concern about Bichette, of course, is his ultimate position.  A SS through high school and his first two pro seasons, his range and arm strength suggest a potential move across the bag to 2nd.  He’s working with the High Performance group on making his first step more explosive, but having seen him attempt to make several throws from the hole this season, the concerns about his arm may be legit.  Another concern may be the fact that his numbers at High A, well still above average, dropped off from his Lansing stats.  A sprained ankle, adjusting to a new league, and fatigue as he neared the end of his first full pro season may have been responsible, but he hit a very pedestrian .263/.329/.421 in August.

Detractors have said that Bichette’s mechanics will be exploited by Pitchers at higher levels.  He’s heard that kind of talk since high school, as he told Sportsnet:

“I don’t know if I’ll ever shut everybody up,” the 19-year-old says late this August in Dunedin. “That’s the thing. I still hear like, ‘Oh, well, he’s hitting in A-ball but what about high-A? Oh, he’s hitting in high-A but what about double-A?’ I don’t know — I don’t really care. I just continue to be myself. Whether I prove people right or wrong, I’m not really into that. I just don’t really care about their input.”

Bichette has consistently proven the nay-sayers wrong through his first two seasons.  The Blue Jays will more than likely be content to let him stay at SS until he proves that he needs to be moved.  If it’s over to 2nd, Bichette profiles as a top-of-the-order, impact bat in the mold of an Ian Kinsler or a Dustin Pedroia.  He will return to Dunedin to start the season, but should be in New Hampshire by the time summer arrives.

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