Blue Jays Farm Report: Bichette goes back to raking

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Bo Bichette always steps up to the plate looking to do damage and at the beginning of the season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats, the 20-year-old Toronto Blue Jays prospect tried to take that to another level.

Typically, pitchers have tried to expose him on the inside edge of the plate and for the most part in his young career he’s laid off such offerings. But as a few games turned into a few weeks without an April home run, the gifted shortstop decided to start turning on the pitchers’ pitches, looking to start yanking balls over the fence.

That led to an extended slump – he batted .209/.285/.341 with 13 walks and 29 strikeouts in 144 plate appearances over 32 games from April 18 to May 23 – and some soul searching.

Why the change?

“The fact that I’m in double-A now, it’s kind of realistic that I could go to the big-leagues at some point, I think I started trying to force my way instead of being who I am,” Bichette says in a recent interview. “A lot of things to learn from.”

A strong recovery in the 21 games since – .372/.416/.628 with eight walks against eight strikeouts – is a strong indication that Bichette has taken those lessons to heart.

“He was being a little bit overaggressive,” says Fisher Cats manager John Schneider. “For a kid that won a batting title last year and had basically video game numbers his whole minor-league career offensively, it was a handful of games where teams were pitching him a certain way and he was trying really hard to combat that and got away from his approach. I love the way he’s going about it now and the way he’s adjusted in his at-bats, the work he’s put in has been on point and when you look up at the end of August, he’s going to be right where Bo usually is.

“For him to figure out things as quickly as he did is just a credit to him.”

The entire experience was a new one for Bichette – “It’s the first time I’ve struggled in my life – ever,” he says – and taught him how to honestly self-evaluate, identify problems and work to make adjustments.

In trying to be someone that he’s not at the plate, he understood that he got away from the strengths that helped him post a 1.182 OPS with the GCL Blue Jays in 2016 and a .988 OPS last season with low-A Lansing and advanced-A Dunedin.

He batted .384 in 70 games at Lansing before hitting .323 in 40 games at Dunedin. There were 14 homers over the course of those 110 games in 2017, along with 41 doubles.

“I don’t know if this makes sense, but I hit a lot of home runs by accident, like take fastballs the other way, breaking balls, I’m not necessarily someone who’s going to turn on a fastball and hit it 500 feet,” says Bichette. “I like to be a good hitter and hit home runs by accident. At the beginning of this year I was doing well, I just wasn’t hitting homers and I started trying to pull fastballs and get the head out, turn on pitches, and that got me completely out of who I am.

“My plate discipline was bad, wasn’t even hitting the fastballs when I got out in front of them, so just a lot of things I haven’t gone through in my life. Once I realized, OK, I’ve got to get back to being myself, I have to get a good pitch first, you’re only as good as the pitch you swing at, I kind of figured it out.”

Similarly, Bichette has also been making strides defensively at shortstop, where he’s started 57 of his 61 games this year.

Regular early work with defensive coach Andy Fermin has focused on perfecting technique, particularly on his first-step efficiency and throwing, locking down on little details in a way that’s new to him.

“Really, I just work my butt off,” Bichette says. “My throws, my preparation, just being ready every pitch, knowing the situations, everything.”

The payoff is that some observers now believe he’ll have a chance to stick at shortstop in the big-leagues, a view that was more exception than rule when Bichette was drafted and to a lesser degree last season.

Those gains, combined with the experience of handling a poor stretch at the plate, adjusting and emerging from the struggle, have him set up for an important developmental year.

“Definitely it sucked, it wasn’t fun,” Bichette says of his slump at the plate. “It was something I knew I had to go through at some point, it just wasn’t fun at all. In hindsight, now that I feel like I’ve gotten over that hump, figured out what makes me good again, I definitely look back at it and think it was a good experience.”

On At the Letters, Ben Nicholson-Smith and Arden Zwelling take fans inside the Blue Jays and around MLB with news, analysis and interviews.

Triple-A Buffalo Bisons

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., INF
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2016
Season to date (Majors): 70 PA | 2 HR | .206/.229/.309 | 2 BB | 17 K
Season to date (Buffalo): 90 PA | 5 HR | .292/.309/.506 | 1 BB | 19 K
Season to date (New Hampshire): 52 PA | 1 HR | .347/.382/.510 | 3 BB | 6 K

Anthony Alford, OF
Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft
Season to date (Majors): 16 PA | 0 HR | .143/.250/.143 | 2 BB | 6 K
Season to date (Buffalo): 132 PA | 0 HR | .214/.280/.252 | 11 BB | 42 K

Danny Jansen, C
Acquired: 16th round, 2013 draft
Season to date: 189 PA | 4 HR | .309/.417/.485 | 24 BB | 27 K

Ryan Borucki, pitcher
Acquired: 15th round, 2012 draft
Season to date: 3.60 ERA | 70 IP | 27 BB | 54 K

Sean Reid-Foley, pitcher
Acquired: 2nd round, 2014 draft
Season to date (Buffalo): 6.75 ERA | 17.1 IP | 2 BB | 22 K
Season to date (New Hampshire): 2.03 ERA | 44.1 IP | 20 BB | 52 K

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Double-A New Hampshire Fisher-Cats

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., 3B
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2015
Season to date: 235 PA | 11 HR | .407/.457/.667 | 20 BB | 21 K

Bo Bichette, SS
Acquired: 2nd round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 282 PA | 5 HR | .284/.355/.448 | 27 BB | 47 K

Cavan Biggio, 2B
Acquired: 5th round, 2016 draft
Season to date: 254 PA | 13 HR | .292/.415/.579 | 44 BB | 64 K

Max Pentecost, C/1B
Acquired: 1st round, 2014 draft
Season to date: 155 PA | 3 HR | .243/.289/.382 | 10 BB | 36 K

T.J. Zeuch, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2016 draft
Season to date (New Hampshire): 3.32 ERA | 43.1 IP | 14 BB | 23 K
Season to date (Dunedin): 3.47 ERA | 36.1 IP | 9 BB | 24 K

Jordan Romano, pitcher
Acquired: 10th round, 2014 draft
Season to date (New Hampshire): 3.54 ERA | 68.2 IP | 30 BB | 61 K
Season to date (Buffalo): 3.60 ERA | 5.0 IP | 4 BB | 3 K

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Advanced-A Dunedin Blue Jays

Logan Warmoth, SS
Acquired: 1st round, 2017 draft
Season to date: 175 PA | 1 HR | .237/.314/.308 | 16 BB | 40 K

Riley Adams, C
Acquired: 3rd round, 2017 draft
Season to date: 197 PA | 3 HR | .228/.320/.351 | 19 BB | 46 K

Kevin Smith, SS/3B
Acquired: 4th round, 2017 draft
Season to date (Dunedin): 64 PA | 2 HR | .351/.406/.491 | 4 BB | 16 K
Season to date (Lansing): 204 PA | 7 HR | .355/.407/.639 | 17 BB | 33 K

Nate Pearson, pitcher
Acquired: 1st round, 2017 draft
Season to date: 10.80 ERA | 1.2 IP | 0 BB | 1 K

Yennsy Diaz, pitcher
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2014
Season to date (Dunedin): 3.91 ERA | 23.0 IP | 10 BB | 22 K
Season to date (Lansing): 2.08 ERA | 47.2 IP | 25 BB | 42 K

Low-A Lansing Lugnuts

Kevin Vicuna, SS
Acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2014
Season to date: 264 PA | 1 HR | .281/.319/.365 | 12 BB | 35 K

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