It’s a story as old as time itself. Boy sees prospect. Boy sees prospect’s father is a Hall of Famer. Prospect double-doubles in the minors. Boy falls in love. Boy wants to get married. Prospect, who has grown into a major leaguer breaks boys heart. Boy’s life is now in disarray. Cavan Biggio of the Toronto Blue Jays has had a rough start to the season, causing much distress in the fantasy streets. Is it time to move on or ’till death do us part?
Biggio was selected in the fifth round of the 2016 MLB draft by the Toronto Blue Jays.
He didn’t exhibit any power in his first year but the walk and strikeout rates were very good. In his second season, he went 11/11 in 556 plate appearances. The strikeout rate ticked up to 25.2% and the walk rate was 13.3%, but the batting average was a meh .233. When he went up to Double-A in 2018, the strikeout rate ticked up to 26.3% but so did the ISO to .247. He went 26/20 in 563 plate appearances and wedding bells were ringing all across the land.
When he made the bigs in 2019, the slash was .234/.364/.429, walk rate was 16.5%, and the strikeout rate was 28.6%. But, but, but….the ISO was a robust .195 and he went 16/14 in 430 plate appearances. That ain’t bad for one’s first season with the big boys.
During last year’s COVID season, the walk rate was 15.5%, strikeout rate was 23%, ISO was .182, while the slash was .250/.375/.432. He went 8/6 in 265 plate appearances. I think we have a pretty good idea of the type of player Biggio is now.
The one knock on his game, though, was the lack of aggressiveness. Last season, he swung at 36% of pitchers. Only Yasmani Grandal and Christian Yelich swung at fewer pitches. Looking at the other batters around him, maybe it’s not such a bad thing, though – Juan Soto, Joey Votto, Max Muncy, and some Mike Trout guy.
Regardless, entering this season, he wanted to be more aggressive, especially early in the count.
Well, mission accomplished. He’s swinging at 42.3% of pitches. He’s increased the swings inside the zone by 4.7%.
It’s totally messed him up, though. The strikeout rate is 34.1% while the contact rate has gone down. Inside the zone, the contact rate has remained the same, but he’s chasing 10% more frequently than last year and the contact rate outside the zone has plummetted 10.3%. As a result, the swinging strike rate is at 13.6%. He had never had a rate higher than 9.9% in any professional season.
He’s barreling fewer pitches and the hard-hit rate has decreased. If you’re still not buying that the approach has changed, the pull rate has decreased from 47.2% to 34.1%. He’s going oppo 9.8% more this season than last.
Against left-handed pitching, he’s slashing .056/.150/.056 in 20 plate appearances. In his career, the slash is .241/.382/.369, which is better than the numbers against righties, although the power is greater against righties.
Now, not all is bad. The average exit velocity is at a career-high 89.2 mph while the max exit velocity is at 108, 3.4 mph faster than his prior high.
What’s it all mean and what’s the outlook going forward?
This is a tough one because I can envision multiple paths. The simple route would be that Biggio just goes back to what made him successful in the past. Just be patient and eschew the aggressiveness campaign. Easy peasy. That could be a 20/15 player with a .240 average and high OBP. Unfortunately, it’s not easy like flipping the light switch.
Another path is that he continues on this new path and eventually incorporates the newfound approach to his foundation. This would mean ups and downs in the short term but could reap big rewards later in the season.
The third path is that he just mind f’s himself all season. This whole process could just short circuit him, ending in a demotion to the minors to “get his head right” or “work on his approach.”
Baseball is freaking hard and any disruption to the status quo can easily send one into a vortex of uncertainty and confusion. And once pitchers see that, it’s game over.
Now, all three paths are viable outcomes and all are within the range of outcomes. I think he goes down the third path, gets sent down for a bit, then gets back to his roots. I think he eschews the aggressive campaign, gets his timing and groove back, then returns to the majors later and rakes. Could take some time, though. So…..in the short term: