Cavan Biggio vying for promotion to Blue Jays with triple-A success

Toronto Blue Jays' Cavan Biggio watches his home run off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Vince Valasquez during the second inning of a spring training baseball game Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (Chris O'Meara/AP)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Cavan Biggio knows he’s likely the next Blue Jays top prospect to make the jump from triple-A to the major leagues.

Now it’s time for him to show Toronto’s front office that he belongs there.

Biggio, the Blue Jays No. 9-ranked prospect, has been playing up to that challenge this season, batting .351 with a 1.131 on-base plus slugging percentage through his first 25 games with the Buffalo Bisons.

"I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thinking about it," the 24-year-old Biggio said this week. "We’re in triple-A here, and playing the second-highest level of baseball is amazing but don’t get me wrong — we all want to be in the big leagues."

Biggio is the third of Toronto’s top prospects that come from a distinguished baseball bloodline. Like Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s dad, Biggio’s father Craig is also a Hall of Famer. Shortstop Bo Bichette, the son of former 14-year major leaguer Dante Bichette, is the other.

Guerrero made his MLB debut last week and Bichette is currently nursing a broken hand. That leaves Biggio next in line for that coveted promotion to the big leagues.

He’s trying not to focus on that, though.

"I do see the writing on the wall but if I think about it too much it can only affect me negatively," Biggio said. "I’m just coming to the ballpark every day and trying to get better. … If you do those things, everything will fall into place and they’ll have to make a decision on you sooner rather than later."

Biggio attributes his impressive start at triple-A to his approach of "slowing the game down."

He’s on his second season of an adjustment made at the beginning of double-A to decrease his pre-swing movements, and it’s been working for him.

"It was kinda like a Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield-type bat wiggle and it was getting pretty out of control and inconsistent," Biggio said of the way he used to move in the batter’s box. "So I made the decision to change it and slow things down so I could see the ball longer and just focus on the pitch. I still (move around), but it’s definitely less than what it was."

Mik Aoki, Biggio’s former head coach at Notre Dame, noticed the change while watching Biggio on TV in a spring training game this year.

"His swing is a lot more simple than it used to be," Aoki said in a phone interview from South Bend, Ind. "I think he just continues to evolve. He doesn’t seem to stop wanting to learn about the game and improve himself."

Aoki had been impressed early on by Biggio’s plate discipline and was happy to see that hadn’t changed. As of Thursday, Biggio had 23 walks and 18 strikeouts over the first month of the season. He also leads the Bisons in homers with six.

Aoki said seeing that kind of power, especially from a second baseman, has been a pleasant surprise.

"I don’t think I would have guessed he’d be that kind of hitter," he said. "I saw two balls he hit right clear out of the stadium in spring training games. That was pretty cool to see."

While Biggio isn’t sure where he learned his patience at the plate, he said it certainly wasn’t from his father, who amassed nearly 600 more strikeouts than walks over his 20-year career.

"My dad really wasn’t that patient of a hitter," Biggio said with a smile. "He always compared me to his friend Jeff Bagwell instead because he would take walks when he could, steal a bag when he could. I think it’s comes from me watching the game so much and learning that selective-aggressive mentality of waiting for my pitch."

As good as the offence has been, Biggio’s ability to play multiple defensive positions is also a plus. He can man first, second or third base and spent all of the 2018 Arizona Fall League season as an outfielder. He started in right field in a triple-A game for the first time this week.

He called that versatility another side effect of watching his father’s games as a child.

"That’s just the way I grew up," Biggio said. "My dad went from catcher to second base, to centre field to left, and back to second. He always told us the best place in the field is on the field and the best place in the lineup is in the lineup. I’ve always had that mentality and that’s how I’ve always approached things."

Aoki recalls one example of that, when Biggio lobbied to play behind the plate after two of the Fighting Irish catchers went down with injury.

"That’s a testament to how much he loves playing the game," Aoki said. "I don’t know if he ever caught an inning in his life, and we would never have used him as a catcher, but he was willing to do it, he just wanted to play."

Aoki, who also coached Biggio’s older brother Conor (younger sister Quinn is now a freshman softball player at Notre Dame), said he’s ready to book a plane ticket to Toronto, or wherever the Blue Jays might be, if his former player makes his MLB debut.

It’s a step Aoki believes Biggio is more than ready for.

"He’s shown he can do it at double-A, which generally speaking is really the watershed level of minor league baseball, and now he’s doing pretty well against guys that have had some big league experience and know what they’re doing in triple-A," Aoki said.

"I would guess that he would be a little bit nervous but I know he’d get over that pretty quickly. I think he’ll do great."

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