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What can we expect from Cavan Biggio?

Tonight’s Blue Jays lineup will somewhat resemble that of an All-Star team from the early 2000s. I mean, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but it’ll be funny to see a Guerrero and Biggio take the field for the Blue Jays tonight.

Cavan Biggio, of course, is the second Hall of Fame son to join the Blue Jays this season. First, it was Vlad Jr., baseball’s best prospect and next big thing. Now it’s Biggio, the son of Houston Astros legend Craig Biggio. There obviously isn’t as much hype around baseball about Biggio Jr.’s debut as there was for Vlad, but still, within hardcore Toronto baseball circles, there’s a lot of interest.

Biggio was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 draft out of Notre Dame as a four-year college senior. He put up some whatever results in his first two professional seasons but then burst onto the scene as a key prospect in the Blue Jays’ system after a breakout year in New Hampshire.

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Biggio made a slight adjustment to his swing, as he explained in an interview with Shi Davidi last season…

“I knew that I needed to get a more starting point besides my hands,” Biggio explains. “I knew that getting something to go back at a consistent time would always get me on time for when I wanted to get ready to hit.”

That worked well with the drop in his hands, which used to start up near the top of his head and then drop down as he started to swing. In turn, that left him with a bat path that swooped in and out of the zone, which is counterproductive to both hitting the ball consistently and hitting it consistently hard.

The lower starting point has allowed him to create the checkmark shaped bat path currently preached by launch-angle aficionados, although that wasn’t Biggio’s intention.

“I was just trying to keep the bat path in the zone more,” he says. “I kept my natural finish, which is a high finish, higher than most people. So, with the lower starting point and higher finish, it created more of a launch angle.”

The results were pretty staggering. Biggio smashed 26 homers, drove in 99 runs, and slashed an impressive .252/.388/.499 line, en route to winning the Eastern League MVP and Championship with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. He came into the season ranked No. 9 on Toronto’s top prospects list, but didn’t receive any consideration in Baseball America’s Top-100.

There was still some skepticism about Biggio’s breakout year given the fact New Hampshire is notoriously a hitter’s paradise. But a month-and-a-half into his first go-around at Triple-A Buffalo, Biggio is posting even better numbers at the plate than he did last season. Biggio is slashing a .252/.388/.499 line that looks even better when you compare it to the rest of his teammates.

So, what can we expect from Biggio? Given his numbers this year in last in Double- and Triple-A, you’d expect a lot more fanfare and hype around Biggio. But that isn’t the case. As I said earlier, there’s a lot of excitement for him within Blue Jays circles, but that doesn’t extend outside of Toronto. For example, Keith Law has expressed major skepticism that Biggio can even be a regular Major League player.

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Part of that his to do with his glove. As a second baseman, Biggio’s level of production at the plate would likely play well from what you’d expect out of the position. But if he doesn’t have the glove to stick at second, which seems to be a legitimate concern given the effort the Jays have made to play him in the outfield, his bat doesn’t profile as nicely to a corner outfield spot.

Here’s what FanGraphs had to say about Biggio heading into the season…

There’s skepticism surrounding Biggio’s ability to play second base, so the Blue Jays began expanding his defensive horizons last year with time at first and third base, as well as both outfield corners, which is where Biggio saw the most action in the Arizona Fall League. The uppercut nature of Biggio’s swing is going to lead to some strikeouts and his aggregate offensive profile looks much less promising in an outfield corner than it would at second base. If he could indeed play all of those positions, he’d be a very interesting Swiss Army knife with power, but realistically he profiles as a second-division regular or platoon outfielder.

Personally, I find these projections wildly pessimistic and have a hard time grasping them given how good Biggio has been at the plate since his adjustment. Biggio, albeit in a small sample size, has a 150 wRC+ in Buffalo this season and he’s walking more than he’s striking out, which is generally one of the most important signs of success at higher levels. In the world of fielding independent baseball, in which fielding is becoming less and less important and hitting the ball into the seats is all the rage, Biggio profiles quite well.

Who knows! Maybe the skeptical projections are accurate! Maybe they aren’t! That’s the thing with baseball — you can’t predict it. When I look at Biggio, I see somebody who’s mashed at the upper minors and I get excited. Then again, I’m a fan of the Blue Jays, and I want things to work out. I’m not worried about the perfect world in which he needs to play above average defence at second base in order to hit a threshold that matches his value at the plate. I just see a young player who hits and hits and hits and I want to see him join a team full of guys who, well, don’t. We can sort out the details later.

Projections weren’t kind to Devon Travis heading into the 2015 season when he was acquired in a one-for-one swap for Anthony Gose. Keith Law said that Travis wasn’t a real prospect and he didn’t have a shot at being anything worthwhile because his glove was bad and his bat was good, but not good enough. That sounds just like what many are saying about Biggio.

Unfortunately for Travis, things didn’t work out. But that isn’t because of his bat or glove. It was because of health. When Travis was healthy, he was excellent. Travis proved doubters wrong and played a key role in Toronto’s 2015 and 2016 seasons. Let’s hope Biggio can also prove his doubters wrong and continue to hit at the Major League level.

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