TORONTO -- Last year in Double-A, Cavan Biggio had what some might consider to be a banner year.
His team won the Eastern League championship -- just one year after his Dunedin Blue Jays squad won a Florida State League championship -- and the infielder was named the circuit’s Most Valuable Player after hitting .252/.388/.499 with 26 home runs, 23 doubles, five triples, 100 walks and 99 RBIs over 132 games.
But it wasn’t enough.
Biggio wanted to be even better. To follow a season in which he made significant changes to his swing -- heading into last year after dropping his hands to allow for more power, and becoming more pull-heavy at the same time -- Toronto’s No. 9 prospect made even more.
“Going into last offseason, I was just trying to become a better hitter, and taking things from the year before to add to my game, like everyone else does,” Biggio said. “What I tried to do this offseason was to get my swing and approach to a place where I could use the whole field a little bit more and put balls in play more. And if you look at what I did in Triple-A this year, that’s kind of what I accomplished.”
Before being called up to join the big league Blue Jays roster on Friday, Biggio hit .307/.445/.504 with six home runs, seven doubles, a triple and 26 RBIs, with more walks than strikeouts in his 42 Triple-A games.
When he arrived in Toronto, the 24-year-old second baseman was reunited with the man who was his manager in Lansing, Dunedin and New Hampshire -- now a member of the Major League coaching staff for the Blue Jays -- John Schneider. With a firsthand look at the changes Biggio has made along the way, Schneider couldn’t be more impressed with the results.
“It’s a huge credit to him, because it’s like, ‘Cool, I was the MVP and I’m going to make some adjustments,’” Schneider said. “That’s awesome. That’s just who he is, never satisfied. And he’ll continue to do that while he’s here, which is the most exciting part about him.”
During his time in Dunedin, Schneider recalls Biggio driving the ball mostly up the middle and to the opposite field, and by the time they both headed to New Hampshire, the son of Hall of Famer Craig was more conscious of hitting the ball in the air.
“He always hit the ball hard, so when you have the [launch] angle with the exit velo, that was when the home runs came,” Schneider said. “Along with the strikeouts, but still had the walks. So we had a conversation -- me, him, Hunter [Mense], who’s our hitting coordinator now in the Minor Leagues and was our hitting coach last year in New Hampshire -- and asked, ‘Can you combine the two Cavans from ’17 and ’18?’ That’s where he is now.
“It was A, knowing he had the ability to hit the ball the other way more, and B, a lot of teams were shifting him, so he wanted to get more of that label taken off him. And it just makes you more of a complete hitter where you can still take your shots in leverage counts and still hit the ball up the middle and the other way with two strikes. It’s a good player not being satisfied with a good year.”
Though it took some time for Biggio to find comfort with the adjustments he made throughout this offseason, he was fueled by confidence in what he felt he could do, and he was driven by his own competitiveness to want to be better.
“As a hitter, you know yourself so well and you’re your best hitting coach,” he said. “You know what you have to do to become a better hitter, and for you to apply those differences or changes or improvements, you have to stay committed to it and know it’s all going to work out, the more you work on it. The offseason is so long and you have so much time to get used to it, and as an overall competitor you always want to be the best player you can be.”
This season, Schneider has seen Biggio getting on plane sooner and staying in the strike zone longer with his swing, “as opposed to last year, when he was a little bit in and out and had more of an all-or-nothing swing, for lack of a better term.”
“I just wanted to give myself the best ability to put the ball on the barrel,” Biggio said. “If you put the ball on the barrel, hitting the ball hard, that gives you the best chance to get a base hit or hit a home run. So I just want to get my body in a position where it gives me the best chance to put the ball on the barrel.”
That’s exactly what the young hitter did on Sunday, notching his first Major League hit in his first at-bat of the game against the Padres, before sending his first ball out of the park in his second at-bat, and adding a third knock in the Blue Jays win before all was said and done.