Biggio drawing on past success in path back to prominence

March 1st, 2023

SARASOTA, Fla. -- We don’t say ’s name as often as we used to. Internally, though, the Blue Jays expect that to change.

Biggio has long had support throughout the organization, but after breaking through with a pair of standout seasons in 2019 and '20, his numbers fell off. As Biggio moved into more of a super-utility role and battled injuries, his gift for reaching base seemed to fade.

But the 27-year-old’s name is always a sentence away when members of the Blue Jays’ front office or coaching staff speak about this club’s depth. During a recent MLB Network appearance, general manager Ross Atkins spoke of the young core led by and , then bounced to Biggio.

“Cavan, who I think doesn’t get enough attention, I can’t wait to see him this year and him have a significant impact,” Atkins said.

Tuesday in Dunedin, we saw a flash of that.

With Biggio in right field and a runner on first, he tracked down a low, hooking liner in the corner to make an impressive sliding catch. In one fluid motion, Biggio planted his foot to stop his momentum short of the wall in foul territory, popped to his feet and fired a strike to first base to double up the runner. This wasn’t just “good for a utility guy,” it was a great defensive outfield play, period.

He followed that up with a 2-for-3 outing as the Blue Jays’ second baseman in a 2-1 win over the Orioles on Wednesday.

Biggio knows right field well. He started 13 games there in 2021 and six last season, but John Schneider is expecting more of a 50-50 split for Biggio between the infield and outfield this season, adding that he’ll play “a ton” of outfield. That should tell you all you need to know about the Blue Jays' plans for their fourth outfield spot, and this assignment is something he plans to grab with both hands.

“The athleticism that I have can help this team win, not only at second base and first base,” Biggio said. “Talking to Schneids in the offseason, I said, ‘Listen, I know I’m a good outfielder and I know I can be better than what I’ve shown.’”

This defensive side is where Biggio’s value begins, offering a fine baseline. His potential to be something greater, though, lies in his offense.

Biggio’s first two seasons offer a 159-game sample in which he hit .240, reached base at a .368 clip and had 24 home runs. He’s spent the past two seasons looking for that on-base number again, battling several nagging injuries along the way, but his path back begins in one place.

“My swing has to be right. I’ve been working on that a lot this Spring Training and offseason with guys like Victor Martinez,” Biggio said. “I’m picking their brains, hitting with him extra, staying late. When it’s all said and done, you look at my first two years and you see where I was really doing well, I was able to drive the ball. I was able to hit home runs. That thought goes into the pitcher’s mind when I step in the box.”

Biggio on base can be a quietly dangerous thing. He’s not thought of as a traditional burner, necessarily, but Schneider is quick to heap praise upon his baserunning. Whether it’s finding the right spots to swipe a bag, going from first to third on a single or reading a breaking ball in the dirt, Biggio is an exceptional baserunner across the board. For his career, he’s 25-for-26 in stolen base attempts.

Add in the pitch timer, bigger bases and limits on how many times a pitcher can disengage from the mound to throw over, and many of the new rules play into the hands of a heady, instinctual player like Biggio.

“I do think it will help me. Regardless of the rule changes and bigger bases, I wanted to be more aggressive this season with stealing bases,” Biggio said. “I do think it’s going to take a bit of an adjustment and changing my thinking, whether it’s about the clock or how many times [pitchers] disengage.”

That’s exactly where he thinks this club’s biggest strides will come in 2023. The outfield defense is clearly improved with the additions of and , which moves to right, but outside of the catchers, this entire lineup is capable of running at any time.

Somewhere, in the middle of that, will be Biggio playing a valuable and regular role, even if his name isn’t a regular part of the conversation.