Don’t Let Me Down Bo

Trying to project the major league career of minor league prospects is probably the most difficult task for fantasy players. There are relatively few people who are brave enough to try it, and even fewer who actually do it with any accuracy.

For hitters in particular, trying to judge how they will adjust to major league pitching is such a mystery. Do they have a glaring weakness that can be exploited like Yoan Moncada and Byron Buxton? Or do they step in with an approach that 5-year vets envy like Juan Soto and Ronald Acuña Jr.?

All of that said, let’s take a look at Bo Bichette. The 20-year-old son of former All-Star Dante Bichette checks in as the #11 prospect on the MLB Pipeline Top 100. Depending on how Toronto wants to manipulate his service time, Bo should be up with the Blue Jays sometime before the All-Star break (hopefully earlier now that Toronto seems to have committed to a rebuild, at least to a degree). Just that potential alone makes it time to seriously consider Bichette in your deeper keeper leagues and dynasty leagues – if someone hasn’t snapped him up already, of course.

Bichette has an elite level Hit tool that grades out at a 70 on the 20-80 scale which provides validation for his .286 Double-A average in 2018. Personally, there are two reasons I would rather invest in a player with good bat-to-ball skills than unbelievable power. The first is that it is easier for someone to get stronger than it is for someone to improve pitch recognition, as proved by Francisco Lindor’s 38 HR and Joey Gallo’s 206 strikeouts in 2018.  The second is the potential for power explosions like that of Gleyber Torres and Ozzie Albies. Both players finished with 24 HR this season, but very few people were projecting more than 15.

There are several reasons why a player could see a boost in power when moving up to the big leagues. One theory has surfaced that minor league baseballs do not travel as far a major league balls. Austin Meadows attributed his initial power burst during his first few weeks with the Pirates to just being able to see the ball better. Major league parks have better lighting than minor league parks and so he had an easier time seeing pitches.

Then there is the potential that hitters are able to get more comfortable in the box because the pitchers at the highest level have better control. Even though facing Max Scherzer is no picnic, there is a significantly smaller chance that he will accidentally launch a 97 MPH heater at your head than there would be with a Double-A flamethrower who still can’t repeat his mechanics. Whatever rationale you want to choose, it does appear that minor league power numbers do not translate directly to major league power numbers.

Bichette had a modest 11 HR last year in 131 Double-A games. Assuming he plays in roughly the same amount of games for the Blue Jays next year after he gets the call, 17-22 HR doesn’t seem out of the range of possibility. As his body further matures 25+ HRs wouldn’t shock me, especially getting to play in Toronto and the other homer-happy parks of the AL East.

If a solid batting average and decent power isn’t enough for you to take a chance on Bo, how about if I throw in some stolen bases. Bichette has good (not great) speed and swiped 32 bases last season. Unlike home runs, a promotion to the majors tends to reduce SB numbers – the pitchers are better at holding runners (excluding Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester), the catchers have cannon arms, and a lot of risk-adverse managers don’t want to gamble an out so a guy can move up 90 feet. As valuable as steals have become, if Bichette only gets to 20 next season that would make him a relevant middle-infield option in most leagues.

I’m going out on a limb and providing a strong recommendation for Bo in keeper/dynasty formats. A .270 average, 17 HRs, 20 SB, 65 RBIs and 75 R scored is my estimate. Now I just need the Jays to promote him and for Bo to put up the numbers so I don’t look like an idiot. Don’t let me down Bo.

Jake Blodgett

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Like most of you I am addicted to fantasy baseball. Since I spend most of my time talking about it, I figured I would write some of my thoughts down. I am a shameless promoter of Mike Trout and an even more shameless Shohei Ohtani apologist.

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