BUFFALO, NY -- There is nothing Bo Bichette enjoys more than competing.
The 21-year-old shortstop’s competitive nature and his passion for competition are the driving forces behind his work ethic, his play on the field and his drive to continually get better. But it’s only lately that Bichette has been able to take advantage of those attributes and use them to his advantage.
“Now that I’m starting to learn how to hone [my passion and competitiveness], it’s been only a blessing,” the Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect said. “But earlier in my career, it was a blessing and a curse. I cared so much about everything, and I would let things affect me a little bit. But now it’s only a blessing.
“I go out there and play as hard as I can. I go out there every single day trying to figure out how to get better and how to compete and beat the other team, so it’s been huge for me.”
As Bichette begins to benefit from those qualities -- on top of the incredible talent he’s displayed throughout each level of the Minor Leagues in his four seasons -- the impression he makes on the big league club continues to grow.
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“The thought of having his passion, his competitiveness, Cavan Biggio’s leadership and diligence and the teammate [he is], and the excitement around Vladdy [Guerrero Jr.], the excitement around Lourdes Gurriel and that group together, playing together, is extremely exciting,” Toronto’s general manager Ross Atkins said on Thursday.
Though the Blue Jays are excited about what Bichette brings to the table, the organization would also like to see a little more from him in the International League before he makes his way to Toronto.
Since returning to the Bisons roster after sustaining a fractured left hand earlier this season -- an injury that sidelined the infielder for six weeks -- Bichette has gotten into seven games and gone 7-for-29 with two home runs, two doubles and seven RBIs over that span. He notched his best game of the season so far on Thursday, going 3-for-5 with a homer, a double and five RBIs.
“We would really like to see some time in Triple-A and him get his legs under him and have a good, strong foundation before we have to have that discussion,” Atkins said. “But his Spring Training was extremely impressive, what he’s done in the Minor Leagues thus far, the teammate that he is, the effort that he has, it’s really a lot to get excited about.”
In 288 career Minor League games, the son of former Major Leaguer Dante Bichette has posted a slash line of .325/.384/.518 with 32 home runs, 14 triples, 100 doubles, 220 runs scored and 200 driven in. In the times where the young Bichette has found consistency at the plate, he’s found one notable difference.
“It’s just trusting myself,” he said. “That’s probably the thing for everybody really, is being confident in themselves. At each level, there’s a new hurdle to get over mentally, not really physically but mentally, so for me that’s really been it.”
Throughout his young career, Bichette has seen an evolution in his mental game, which has helped him focus on his successes rather than dwell on any mistakes.
“The biggest thing is when I was younger, every out was the end of the world,” the young infielder said. “I think over the last couple of years I’ve gotten a lot better at that, and knowing that I’m going to make a lot of outs in this game, and to handle it better, learn from it, and get better from it.
“It’s not easy. It’s our job, and for a lot of us, we grow up wanting to be the best player that we can be, so it’s not easy to let go of those things but you have to. I think I’ve gotten better at it, and started learning how to not think about it in a negative way, but think about it in a positive way, how to get better the next day. I’ve grown a lot in that aspect.”
As Bichette continues his progression, he’s also had a chance to see what life is like at the big league level for a couple of players he’s grown with and moved up the rungs of the Minor League ladder with, watching Guerrero and Biggio cut their teeth in Toronto.
“It’s been awesome seeing them there,” Bichette said. “Obviously Cavan’s been swinging it really well lately, and Vladdy too, so to watch them do what we’ve been talking about for the last three years is really cool, and I’m really excited for them.”
As he worked his way back from injury -- staying at home in Florida during the rehabilitation process -- the excitement contributed to Bichette’s eagerness to return as quickly as possible, so he was grateful to his family for helping him control the urge to do too much too fast.
“I definitely wanted to [do more],” Bichette said. “I felt ready. There was definitely just a part of me that wanted to get going, especially with Vladdy and Cavan up there and everything. So I was trying to rush, but luckily they didn’t let me. … But it definitely tested my patience.”
With an eye on joining the Blue Jays sooner than later, Bichette believes he knows what it will take to get to the big leagues and stay there, though he also understands that any decisions made are out of his control.
“I just need to continue to try to get better every day and play hard, and whatever happens, happens,” Bichette said. “But playing hard and preparing the way I can, being a good teammate, those are the things that I can control; obviously what will keep me up there. What will get me there is probably performance, but I’m just going to worry about the things that I can control.”
Alexis Brudnicki is a Canada-based Baseball Development and Special Projects reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @baseballexis.