Blue Jays’ Biggio eyes another big year with many gloves at the ready

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Cavan Biggio, pictured above with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. (Brianna Soukup/Getty)

TORONTO – Each of Cavan Biggio’s five baseball gloves serves a different purpose. There’s his usual choice, the second baseman’s glove he’s most comfortable in, plus options for first and third. Ever since October, he’s had an outfielder’s glove, too.

With all those choices available, Biggio’s equipment bag offers far more selection than most. Still, he needs to go glove shopping at some point soon.

“I need to order some more, because not all of them are mine,” he said recently. “I need to give some of them back.”

Once Biggio finds replacement gloves, they’re sure to get plenty of use. After a breakout season at double-A, the 23-year-old’s closer than ever to the big-leagues. If he sustains the offensive production he showed last year, he could make his Blue Jays debut in 2019. There certainly won’t be a shortage of places to play him.

After a solid but unspectacular season at high-A in 2017, Biggio took his offensive production to the next level last year. He led the Eastern League in home runs (26), walks (100) and OPS (.887) while also stealing 20 bases.

“I really wasn’t trying to lift the ball, but with my natural upper finish, it allowed my doubles in the gap to turn into home runs,” said Biggio, a fifth-round selection in 2016. “I always knew that I could compete with the best of them. This year proved it to a lot of people.”

With production like that, he’s an intriguing prospect in his own right–not only because his father Craig’s in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“It was not really a surprise to us,” said Blue Jays director of player development Gil Kim. “When you know how good a feel for the game he has and how hard he works and how detailed and meticulous he is and how talented he is, you see what he did last year and sit there and say ‘yeah, that kind of makes sense.’”

The Blue Jays weren’t the only ones impressed by Biggio’s year. Some rival executives have remarked that they like what they see from Biggio and envision a big-league future for him even if he doesn’t rank among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects.

Intent on adding to Biggio’s versatility, the Blue Jays sent him to the Arizona Fall League last October. It was a chance to play alongside some of the game’s top prospects and learn the fundamentals of outfield defence. Biggio describes his stint in Arizona as a ‘great experience,’ and Kim thought the outfield reps went smoothly.

Second base remains Biggio’s most comfortable position, and he’s strongest there, according to Kim. Beyond that he feels most at ease playing third or first, but outfield’s no longer as foreign as it once was.

All told, Biggio combined for 69 games at second, 34 at third, 24 at first, 10 in right, four in left and one at short between double-A and the AFL. With spring training approaching, the Blue Jays have told him to be ready for anything when he begins 2019 at triple-A.

The grind of a long season took its toll Biggio last year, but he’s feeling physically stronger having re-gained the 10-15 pounds he lost over the course of 2018. Once the season starts, Biggio hopes to avoid extended slumps by delivering consistent results day to day and month to month.

If he does, there’s a path to playing time in Toronto later this year. Success against triple-A pitching would be a prerequisite for a big-league call-up, and the Blue Jays want to see Biggio’s defensive progress continue. But injuries create needs at the MLB level every year, and his versatility makes him a fit just about anywhere.

Plus, service time considerations likely won’t be as much of a factor for Biggio as they are for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, so the Blue Jays don’t need to time his arrival as carefully. Teams are wary of starting a player’s option clock unnecessarily since optionable players offer maximum roster flexibility, but that shouldn’t prevent Biggio from earning big-league consideration if he’s hitting later in the year.

If last summer offers much indication, a strong first half at triple-A could force the Blue Jays’ hand. Awaiting Biggio in Toronto is a promising core of young big-leaguers, many of whom debuted in 2018.

“You look at the guys called up last year: guys like Ryan Borucki and Danny Jansen. They’re very good and they’re going to be a part of this team for a long time,” Biggio said. “We’ve got a couple of other pieces to bring up that are going to be in triple-A or double-A. I think if everything goes right, we can surprise a lot of people.”

Biggio has surprised his share of people already. Another year like 2018, and he’ll soon need all of those gloves in the big-leagues.

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