Jays From the Couch spoke with Blue Jays prospect, Cavan Biggio, about his strong 2018
On Sunday afternoon at the Blue Jays’ WinterFest, I got the chance to speak with prospect Cavan Biggio. His extraordinary 2018 season with the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats propelled him from a prospect with an outside chance of making it to the majors to one that looks primed to become an everyday player.
A player who had previously combined strong plate discipline (career BB/K of 0.67) with solid defensive value, Biggio added serious power to his game last season—he posted a .247 ISO in 2018, after posting a .111 mark over the previous two seasons. The result was the best overall hitting production (145 wRC+) among qualified batters across Double-A, along with above-average defence at a premium position (7 fielding runs above average (FRAA) over 65 games at second) and positional flexibility (0 FRAA over 33 games at third).
One aspect of his 2018 season that I was particularly curious about was the fact that he managed to roughly double his power production (in terms of ISO) and improve his plate discipline (in terms of BB/K), all while making the most difficult jump in the minors, from High-A to Double-A. From Biggio’s perspective, his improved BB/K—in roughly the same number of plate appearances, he struck out about as often as he did at High-A in 2017, but increased his walk total by one-third—was most likely a combination of his patience and the more careful approach pitchers give to cleanup hitters: “I’ve always been a patient hitter and I think when I moved from leading off to four-hole, hitting with some runners on, they pitched me a little more carefully and I think that’s where you see the 30 or 40 more walks than the year before.”
These improvements in his power and plate discipline, generated over a significant number of plate appearances at Double-A, have not gone unnoticed—in their 2019 MLB projections, Steamer has Biggio producing a 91 wRC+, the 21st-highest mark among all prospects without an MLB plate appearance.
One potential knock on Biggio’s power surge last season was that it occurred in New Hampshire’s Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, one of baseball’s most lefty-friendly parks thanks to its 306-foot porch in right field. That concern appears misguided. As his Double-A spray chart below makes clear, even if he was hitting in Kansas City’s Kaufmann Stadium, one of the most cavernous parks in the majors, the vast majority of his homers would have cleared the fence. Moreover, he finished third across Double-A with 14 away home runs. Biggio’s power is very real.
He shared some interesting thoughts about the effect that short right field fence can have on lefties: “It is a trap sometimes. Guys from opposing teams come in, big lefty hitters, and they look at the wall and they just start yanking them. I’ve obviously gone through a couple slumps and thought ‘alright, let me just hook one over this brick wall over here.’ But when you try and do that, that’s when you don’t hit the home runs. I was able to play there all year and it’s very forgiving for left-handed hitters.” Ultimately, the key to his 2018 power surge was simple: “I just went up there and tried to hit the ball hard.”
With three minor league seasons in the books, Biggio can also count positional flexibility as a characteristic that adds to his overall value. Beyond his solid defence at the cornerstone (8 FRAA over 237 games at second), he has been about average when used at third (-1 FRAA over 38 games) and has also seen some action at first (22 games).
This past fall, he got his first proper taste of the outfield, playing 12 games in the corners at the Arizona Fall League. He performed well in the small sample, producing 3 FRAA. Reflecting on his solid outfield performance, Biggio noted that “it came to me quick. It was kind of natural.” While he had only played four games in the outfield before the AFL, twice with High-A Dunedin and twice with New Hampshire, he did highlight his informal experience: “I spent a lot of time in the outfield shagging BP growing up with my dad when he played for the Astros and I always found myself in BP going out to the outfield after taking my ground balls, just messing around out there.”
Ultimately, his overall assessment of his time in the outfield for the Surprise Saguaros is positive, leaving open the possibility of further playing time out there with AAA Buffalo and, eventually, the big league club: “At the beginning, playing in the outfield at the Fall League, there were some little things that would go on. I’d sit there and think a little bit about it but, by the end of it, it all seemed pretty natural.”
Discussing his positional future, Biggio sounds eager to contribute to the Blue Jays in any way possible: “Having conversations with the front office, they’ve just said ‘be ready for whatever’…and that’s my mindset going into it, just be prepared for all positions…I’m just excited to play wherever they need me to.”
Come Opening Day 2019, it seems highly likely that Cavan Biggio will be wearing a Bisons jersey, getting his first taste of Triple-A, only one more promotion away from the big leagues. This coming season will be an opportunity for him to further polish his skill set, when he can work to improve on his weaknesses (strikeouts) and solidify his many strengths (power, walks, quality defence at second and positional flexibility). If 2019 goes the way he and the Blue Jays hope it will, it shouldn’t be too long before he’s in Toronto, patrolling second base (or third or first or left or right) and peppering the right field bleachers with dingers.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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I’m an economics professor in the GTA whose lifelong love for the Jays was reignited by that magical August of 2015 and the amazing moments since.