The latest legacy player to join the Blue Jays' lineup, Bichette's historic start to his career adds even more excitement to Toronto's future.
For the Blue Jays, the 2019 season promised to be the Year of Vlad. After committing violence against the minor leagues for two-plus years, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was coming to Toronto (or would be once the team was done messing with his service time). What excitement existed for what was going to be (and has been) an otherwise dismal campaign was reserved for watching Vlad Jr. pummel baseballs all summer long.
Yet as Toronto looks toward the future amid a dreary year, it’s another second-generation major leaguer who’s stolen Guerrero’s thunder up north. After a two-hit night on Thursday against the Yankees, Bo Bichette—youngest son of Dante—is now batting a ridiculous .408/.453/.837 in 53 plate appearances across his first 11 games in the big leagues. Facing New York in his Rogers Centre debut (and with his dad in the crowd), Bichette smacked already the fourth homer of his short career, a booming blast off Domingo German in the fifth inning that probably left a sizable dent.
Not only did that homer extend Bichette’s hitting streak to, well, the entirety of his time in the majors, but it was also his 11th extra-base knock in as many contests. He added another to the tally in the sixth inning with an RBI double, giving him a nine-game two-bagger streak as well.
If that sounds impressive for a rookie, it’s because it is. Bichette is the first freshman to pick up 12 or more extra-base hits in his first 11 games and the first rookie since Ted Williams in 1939 to collect an extra-base hit in nine straight. He’s also the first player in MLB history—not just rookies, but everyone—with a doubles streak of nine or more games.
Granted, all of this is happening in a sample size of barely two weeks. But it’s all legit under the surface. Per Statcast, Bichette’s average exit velocity coming into Thursday was a robust 91.8 mph, and his hard-hit rate was a splendid 52.9%; the latter would rank fourth in the majors if Bichette had enough batted balls to qualify (50). All of that adds up to expected batting average and slugging percentages of .309 and .511, respectively, and while those may be a step down from where he’s currently at, it’s a good sign as to how well he’s playing—and all at the tender age of 21.
It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that Bichette is raking: He came into the year as a global top-10 prospect, then hit a strong .275/.333/.473 at Triple A despite missing a chunk of the year with a fractured hand. But his white-hot start should give more hope to Blue Jays fans that the team’s core of young talent actually can deliver results. It’s not just Bichette, either. Guerrero, who got off to a slow start after being called up in late April, is slashing .406/.453/.710 since the All-Star break. Lourdes Gurriel Jr. is batting .293/.343/.594 since coming back in late May from a month-long Triple A demotion. Cavan Biggio—yes, the Blue Jays have a type—has managed to hold his own, with an OPS+ of 99 through 59 games.
That adds up to a fair amount of offense, though Toronto will need all the firepower it can get, as its young pitching isn’t having quite the same impact. Bichette’s onslaught didn’t matter much on Thursday given that 25-year-old lefty Thomas Pannone was clobbered for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings to jack his ERA all the way up to 6.83. Fellow rotation-mate Trent Thornton, also 25, has a 5.55 ERA in 108 2/3 frames. Top prospect Sean Reid-Foley has looked good, with a 2.49 ERA in 21 2/3 innings scattered between the rotation and the bullpen, but he’s just about the only success story at the major league level for Blue Jays pitching this year.
Worse, Toronto actively made its rotation worse now and next year by dealing away Marcus Stroman at the deadline. The return for him—two pitching prospects, Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson—should factor into the team’s future plans, as will hard-throwing righty Nate Pearson, Brazilian teenager Eric Pardinho and top 2019 draft pick Alek Manoah. But until they’re ready, or unless the Jays’ front office can unearth some talent elsewhere (or spend the money it has to bring in better veteran options than Clayton Richard or Edwin Jackson), the team’s pitching—both rotation and bullpen—is going to be a massive weak spot that undermines the progress of the lineup. It also has to be somewhat concerning that the team seems to prioritize adding cheap quantity, if general manager Ross Atkins’ brag about gaining 42 years of team control in Toronto’s spate of deadline deals is any indication.
Still, it’s clear that between Bichette, Guerrero, Gurriel and a farm system that ranked top five in the majors before the season (and should get a top-10 draft pick next summer), there are pieces that make the Blue Jays’ future look bright. Hopefully soon, fans in Toronto can dream of a game full of those performances instead of only getting a few players each night who are worth the attention.