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Bichette No. 3 among MLB shortstop prospects

MLB.com @gregorMLB

TORONTO -- There were plenty of skeptics when the Blue Jays selected Bo Bichette in the second round of the 2016 Draft. The doubters still exist, but they are a whole lot harder to find now.

Bichette's stock has skyrocketed following a 2017 season in which he flirted with hitting .400 and eventually settled for a .362/.423/.565 slash line across two leagues. The eye-popping numbers forecast a bright future and have led to a third-place finish on MLB Pipeline's ranking of top shortstop prospects.

TORONTO -- There were plenty of skeptics when the Blue Jays selected Bo Bichette in the second round of the 2016 Draft. The doubters still exist, but they are a whole lot harder to find now.

Bichette's stock has skyrocketed following a 2017 season in which he flirted with hitting .400 and eventually settled for a .362/.423/.565 slash line across two leagues. The eye-popping numbers forecast a bright future and have led to a third-place finish on MLB Pipeline's ranking of top shortstop prospects.

The 19-year-old was edged out only by Gleyber Torres of the Yankees and Fernando Tatis Jr. of the Cardinals. Alongside Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bichette -- who is ranked as Toronto's No. 2 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline -- represents the next era of Blue Jays baseball. That status will come with lofty expectations, but the laid-back son of former big leaguer Dante doesn't seem too concerned by any of it.

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"Maybe it's because of how I grew up and because of my dad, I always had a target on my back," Bichette said. "For me, I go out there and my goal is to get better every single day and try to become the best player that I can. Those rankings aren't pressure on me because I have my own goals and they are a lot bigger than those."

One of the biggest question marks surrounding Bichette when he was drafted surrounded his future position. He was projected as a second baseman by a lot of scouts, but part of his agreement with the Blue Jays was an opportunity to remain at shortstop. There were no long-term guarantees, but Bichette was promised a chance to begin his Minor League career at his preferred spot.

It has now been almost two full years and Bichette has yet to surrender the position. In some corners, people believe a lack of standout defensive tools will eventually result in a shift to second. In others, people believe he possesses enough range and the proper instincts to remain right where he is.

The bat speaks for itself and Bichette believes that people will soon realize that his glove does too.

"I've noticed that I can make plays that other people can make," Bichette said. "I haven't really seen people make plays that I can't make. The way that I'm going to stay there is by working hard. I'm not going to stay there if I don't keep working hard and improving. But, yeah, I believe in myself and staying there."

Video: Top Prospects: Bo Bichette, SS, Blue Jays

The next stage of Bichette's development is expected to take place this spring, when he is invited to attend big league camp for the first time. He'll likely begin the year at Double-A New Hampshire and, if the results are there, could be at Triple-A Buffalo by the end of the season. His time isn't now, but it's also not too far off.

In Florida, Bichette will have an opportunity to work alongside Troy Tulowitzki. The same Tulowitzki who worked with the younger Bichette while his father served as the hitting coach in Colorado for the 2013 season. The two reconnected again last spring and will soon share the same diamond in Dunedin.

"Tulo, he helped me out a lot when I was there," Bichette said. "I remember one day in Spring Training, out of nowhere he said, 'Hey Bo, let's go take ground balls.' He had a big influence on me that summer and a bunch of other guys, too. I got to watch Michael Cuddyer and the way he prepared, I think that year he won the batting title. A lot of good players there, [Carlos Gonzalez], a lot of them. I learned a lot."

Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.

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