The Toronto Blue Jays enjoyed a big 2021 season from Bichette, one that put him among MLB’s best shortstops. But, is there more to come?
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The Toronto Blue Jays drafted Bo Bichette in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft and we’ve been waiting for him to take his spot as the everyday shortstop ever since. At the time, Troy Tulowitzki was in his way, but that didn’t last long and 2021 rewarded us with a full season glimpse of what Bo could do. And, he did not disappoint. It begs the question: can he be even better?
2019 gave us a 46 game sample and the next year only gave us 29 games. But, 2021 was the year where Bo Bichette announced his presence. That is not to say that the previous two seasons were a disappointment, but there was a segment of the fan base who wanted to wait to see him in a full 162 game season before they really believed in the hype. But, now, there can be no doubt. He’s legit.
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At age 23, Bo broke out to the tune of 29 HR, 25 SB, 102 RBI, a slash line of .298/.343/.484, a wRC+ of 122 and 4.9 fWAR. In 159 games (690 PA), he asserted himself among MLB’s best shortstops. In fact, he is now the third best shortstop to own on your fantasy team, according to Fantasy Pros. But, can he sustain this? Can he improve upon it?
For what it’s worth, the projection systems (available at Fangraphs) kind of think that what we saw in 2021 is pretty much bang on with some minor variances. He’s projected to hit between 25 and 39 HR, swipe 15-25 bases and hit for an average between .289 and .291 with an OPS of between .827 and .846. His wRC+ is projected to be between 120 and 125 and his WAR to be between 4.3 and 5.2. Looking at his 2021 totals, that isn’t too far off. Depending upon the projection system, these numbers can be somewhat conservative, but even if they are 100% correct, we should expect another great season from Bo.
Of course, when we talk about Bo, some will point to his defense as an area of important progress. However, Bo’s glove work is not as bad as some might think. If you listen to some fans, you would think he should never wear a glove at short ever. But, his DRS value for 2021 was 2. It was 5 in 2019 (a smaller sample). He also put up a UZR/150 of -5. According to Statcast, he put up -6 OAA, which is obviously not very good. In fact, it is good (?) enough for 29th in all of baseball, tied with Corey Seager, but ahead of Luis Urias and Trevor Story. Sure, there’s work to be done, but it isn’t as bad as some make it out to be. Of course, having Vladimir Guerrero Jr.to pick throws out of the dirt on their way to first is likely responsible for saving Bo form some uglier numbers.
At 23 yrs old, we really can’t say Bo’s done as a shortstop, so let’s leave that alone, shall we? There is no reason to think that Toronto is looking to replace him, even if they were interested in Francisco Lindor over a year ago. There are certain players that you bring in that allow you to move a star off their position. There are none of those on the radar for Toronto, either via trade, free agency or in their own system. Bo is the shortstop. End of.
Considering the bat that Bo brings, one has to think that those calling for a better defender at short are in the minority. Offense is always going to trump defense, even if the mantra of pitching and defense winning championships rings true. Teams need to put themselves in a position to win a championship first and Bo Bichette will help Toronto do that from the shortstop position.
This should make everyone happy, because he is one of the more exciting players in the game today. Moreover, Bo is not just a talented hitter who gets lucky, as his rather high BABIP may indicate. He is smart. He clearly leans on the lessons his dad and the other coaches bestow upon him. Think back to the beginning of last year in particular when Bo was poking singles and doubles through the opposite side of the infield, seemingly every game. He knew his job, which was to get on base, or pick up a hit to get a runner in scoring position. He did lead the league with 191 hits. He also made pitchers pay for mistakes. His ability to steal bases is more evidence of just how smart he is. Sure, his sprint speed is in the 74th percentile, but wheels don’t swipe bases on their own. It’s more of a thinking exercise than that.
2021 saw Bo Bichette become an All Star for the first time. He also finished 12th in MVP voting, which is not insignificant. He has certainly established himself as one of the game’s bright stars. The cool thing is that he is just 23 years old, which means there very well could be room for improvement. Obviously, his defense could be better, but allow yourself to think about what numbers he could put up if he isn’t done growing into his role as a MLB player. Saying that he could very well improve is not to knock him, but to point out just how high his ceiling could be. It’s fun to think about.
*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.