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Blue Jays Need Bo Bichette To Take Another Step In 2022

Bo Bichette #11 of the Toronto Blue Jays hits an RBI single against the New York Yankees in the first inning at the Rogers Centre on September 28, 2021 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
(Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images)

 

Toronto Blue Jays shortstop Bo Bichette had a fantastic 2021 season, and that’s no secret for anybody who followed him closely last year.

He played 159 games, in which he slashed .298/.343/.484 with 29 home runs, 121 runs, 102 RBI, and 25 stolen bases.

In other words, he did it all with the bat, or so it seems.

The Blue Jays missed the postseason by a game with their 90-72 record (one behind the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox), and it’s evidently clear that the division will once again come down to the little details in 2022.

The four teams (if we count the Tampa Bay Rays) are extremely close again, and the Blue Jays need every little extra contribution from their players, with Bichette being no exception.

Yes, he was terrific with the bat, but watching his minor league profile and what he did in his first two MLB seasons, we know he can be better.

 

He Still Has Some Offensive Potential

If we use wRC+ (weighted Runs Created Plus), we can see that Bichette was 22 percent better than the average: 100 is considered average, so his 122 wRC+ means he produced more than his peers.

However, he had a 142 wRC+ showing in his rookie year, 2019, when he hit .311/.358/.571 with 11 home runs over a 212-plate appearance sample.

In 2017, in Low-A, he had a 201 wRC+ in a 317-plate appearance sample; and, in High-A, he was at 145 wRC+ over a 182-plate appearance sample.

He had 120 wRC+ stints at various levels, too, but what we are trying to say is that he is capable of a bit more, especially if he can improve his walk rate.

In the minors, Bichette posted walk rates between 6.6 and 7.8 percent, which is solid.

During the 2020 season, he posted a low 3.9 percent walk rate, and the 2021 one was also a tad low at 5.8 percent.

Improving his walk rate even modestly can take him to a new level, one he has shown he can reach in the past.

Here is a peak at a Bichette at-bat, showing the good and the bad:

He had some good takes, swung through a few balls, but ended up inflicting damage.

Bichette is a well-above average offensive shortstop, but with a few more walks (more homers would be nice too, but chances are this is his power ceiling), he can reach the true elite.

If there is a part of Bichette’s game that could use considerable improvements, it’s his defense.

 

Improving His Glove

By Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), he was good, with 2, but Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has him in the negatives, with -5.2.

That’s not so terrible, but more worrisome is the fact that Outs Above Average (OAA), Statcast’s metric to measure defensive worth, has him in the sixth percentile.

He had -6 OAA, near the bottom of the league among shortstops.

Measuring defense is always tricky, but two of the three major metrics say he is below-average.

Overall, Bichette is a fantastic player, with 4.9 Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2021.

But the Blue Jays need him to be the best he can be to be able to sort out the always difficult AL East.

This means improving his defense and taking a few more walks.

Of course, Toronto recognized that the main thing missing from the 2021 roster was reliable pitching and is working to improve it.

But if one of their leaders can also take another step forward, then even better.



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