The Toronto Blue Jays had a great season in 2021 and one of the players who were overshadowed is Bo Bichette, but he won’t be for long
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The Toronto Blue Jays got huge performances from the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Marcus Semien in 2021. But, one of the guys who helped them win 91 games didn’t grab the spotlight as often. His name is Bo Bichette. Even though he finished with the third highest fWAR total on the team, ahead of Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray, it says here that Bo didn’t get the props he deserved…until now.
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In 2021, Bo had himself a coming out party. He hit 29 HR, drove in 102, stole 25 bases and slashed .298/.343/.484 (122 wRC+) on his way to a 4.9 fWAR season. If you’re curious, here are his MLB ranks via ESPN and Fangraphs (min 300 PA):
RBI: 15th (tied with Semien)
A couple things that helped Bo in 2021 were decreasing his K% by a bit and increasing his BB% also by a bit. He managed to increase his HardHit% from 40.6% in 2020 (43.5% in 2019) to 47.5%. According to Statcast, his HardHit% put him in the 83rd percentile. Sticking with Stacast for a moment, there is an interesting little tidbit: Bo’s LA (Launch Angle) went from 12 in 2020 to 7.3, which is odd because to hit home runs, typically, you want to see a Launch Angle of between 15 and 20%. This tells me that Bo was not trying to hit home runs, but focusing more on just hitting the ball hard and if they go out, they go out. This is rather interesting given that his 2021 LD% (Line Drive) of 20.5% was down 5.5% over 2020. But, as I said, he was hitting the ball harder in 2021.
As good as his offense was in 2021, his defense also took a step forward. For years, we’ve been hearing varying opinions on how long Bo would last at the shortstop position. Some folks were saying that he would need a move to second base while others said he might be a good option to play third. It has been said on the JFtC podcast that Bo seems to have improved his defense, but do the numbers back that up? Let’s take a look.
In 2019, Bo put up 5 DRS, a UZR/150 of -5.2 and -6 OAA. These are numbers that are not completely terrible, but enough to give credence to a position switch. In 2020, a shortened season, he put up 0 DRS, 5.9 UZR/150 and 2 OAA. Perhaps, the smaller sample is misleading since 2021 saw him with 2 DRS, -5 UZR/150 and -6 OAA. If you’re interested, his 2021 OAA can be broken down to -13 on plays where he had to go in on the ball, 0 toward third, 3 toward second and 4 going back. He committed 24 errors, which is tied for the most in MLB. Perhaps, the numbers don’t exactly match up with the eye test. Perhaps a defensive upgrade at third over the winter could help him out a bit.
Whether a position change is in his future remains to be seen. We know that he sees himself as a shortstop and would only move if there was an elite alternative. He said as much when the club was rumoured to be after Francisco Lindor a year ago. Depending on what the front office does this winter, Bo could be moved to second or third to take advantage of his arm. However, it seems unlikely that Toronto would splurge on a Carlos Correa, so it looks like Bo will try and use the lessons he learned from Marcus Semien and his coaches and continue working on fielding his position.
As of right now, the Blue Jays have a 23 yr old offensive star who can play passable defense at a premium position. Those don’t exactly grow on trees. Add to that the fact that he will earn the league minimum in 2022, and has at least three more years of team control on him, Bo becomes an incredibly valuable commodity. In 2021, his performance was worth $39.1M, so you know the Blue Jays are enjoying what they’re seeing from him, even if his defense could be better.
As great as Vlad, Ray, Semien and even Alek Manoah were in 2021, we cannot forget just how good Bo Bichette was. Moreover, starting the 2022 season at 24, we should not forget about just how good he may become.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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Shaun Doyle is a long time Blue Jays fan and writer! He decided to put those things together and create Jays From the Couch. Shaun is the host of Jays From the Couch Radio, which is highly ranked in iTunes, and he has appeared on TV and radio spots.