If '19 was good to Bichette, get ready for '20

February 15th, 2020

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- There’s a belief in the Blue Jays’ camp that ’s encore will be even better than his debut. That isn’t the case for some hitters, but Bichette isn’t just some hitter.

Coming up as a prospect, Bichette’s swing divided evaluators. That was when the exaggerated leg kick was sweeping the Minor Leagues -- thanks, in part, to Josh Donaldson's example -- but Bichette’s sudden rise to stardom has shown what he’s been saying all along.

His big, loud swing isn’t something that was cooked up in a video room. It’s his natural movement, complete with dozens of moving parts that Bichette conducts into an orchestra.

That leaves hitting coach Guillermo Martinez to be a second set of eyes, ensuring that Bichette stays within himself and helping him maximize this natural motion without overcomplicating the mechanics. And because it’s natural, it works.

“There’s a difference between hitters that are trying to create those moves and Bo,” Martinez said. “He makes those moves because it’s naturally coming from his body. He’s so elastic, and he has so much freedom within his body -- that’s why he moves that way. Ask another hitter to do what Bo does? No chance.”

It’s the one part of Bichette’s body that doesn’t move, though, that Martinez highlights immediately.

“No matter how much movement he has and creates, he’s actually able to stay really still with his head,” Martinez said. "If you look at video of him hitting, his head does not move whatsoever. If his head doesn’t move then his eyes don’t move, so he’s able to see the ball and make good decisions. That’s one of the most impressive things that he does.”

With an unrivalled confidence in his swing, the next hurdle for Bichette to clear from Year 1 and into Year 2 is the repetition of the league.

Bichette won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2020. Already one of the best young offensive shortstops in the game, the 21-year-old will have opposing pitchers poring over his film prior to every start. The traditional thinking is that starters -- especially those in the AL East -- will get “the book” on Bichette once they see him a few times.

He views it differently.

“Don't get me wrong, they're going to make adjustments -- and I'm going to have to do that too -- but the thing that people never talk about is as prospects, we never face the same pitchers," Bichette said. "That's easier when you face the same pitchers over and over. So as long as I learn from it and I pay attention to what pitchers are doing to me -- and I learn from that -- I think I can make adjustments quicker than most and be successful.”

In 46 games as a rookie, Bichette hit .311 with 11 home runs and a .930 OPS. If he’s able to approach those numbers as a sophomore, his counting stats will really pop when spread across 150 games, which is what the Blue Jays have in mind for him. Martinez is confident, too, that the adjustment for pitchers will be just as difficult as the adjustments Bichette will need to make.

“The same way pitchers are adjusting to the hitter, the hitter has to adjust to the pitching,” Martinez said. "For Bo to continue doing what he’s doing, he doesn’t have many holes in his swing, so if he continues to stay confident with what he’s been doing his whole entire life, he’ll be fine.”