After starting his MLB career in literal record-breaking fashion, what are fair expectations for Bo Bichette when he plays a full season in 2020?
As if I haven’t written this sentence enough over the last month, but Bo Bichette broke another record on Saturday afternoon. This time he picked up his 45th hit in his first 30 games, adding to his already growing resume.
The 21-year-old rookie has been a senstation since arriving in Toronto, and now that he’s joined the likes of Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and others at the highest level, the future is looking pretty bright for the Blue Jays organization.
That said, you can’t build Rome overnight, even when you have critical foundation pieces like these young kids. I have no doubt that each will succeed in the long term, but I don’t know that we should expect All-Star seasons from the Blue Jay youngsters in 2020, even if it’s entirely possible. That said, the more they keep producing lately, the higher the expectations will be going forward.
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For Bichette, he’s started his career with a slash line of .338/.371/.632 with eight home runs, 15 doubles, and 14 RBI in his first game games and 133 at-bats. As high as I am on his potential and his future in the big leagues, I don’t think I can argue that these are sustainable numbers. That said, what are fair expectations for the blossoming superstar for 2020?
I thought I’d start by seeing if there are any notable projection systems that have their numbers already released, and sure enough, Fangraphs has their ZIPS 2020 numbers available. I have a feeling that they’ll be updated again sooner than later, but right now that system sees Bichette taking a big step back in what will be his sophomore season.
ZIPS has Bichette projected for a slash line of .258/.311/.432 with 15 home runs, 38 doubles, and 69 RBI in 127 games and 532 at-bats, good for 2.5 fWAR. That would put him roughly 20th in terms of value among MLB shortstops, although guys like Manny Machado and Gleyber Torres are also included in the rankings.
While those numbers aren’t bad for a second-year player, I feel like they represent the floor of what Bichette could accomplish next season. I’ll fully recognize that ZIPS is a more complicated and intelligent system than my own hunches, but I’m going to guess that Bichette ends up somewhere between the slash lines he’s putting up now, and what ZIPS has him over the course of a full season. Of course, health will be a key factor too, and hopefully he can avoid the IL at this early stage of his career.
With that in mind, let’s take Bichette’s 30 games and do a loose multiplication of where he’s at now. That would give us 40 home runs, 75 doubles, and 70 RBI with 7.0 WAR over 150 games and 665 at-bats. Again, this is why I say his current production likely isn’t sustainable, especially in the doubles department.
If I went to the halfway point, that would put Bichette at a slash line of .298/.341/.532 with 27 home runs, 57.5 doubles, and 69.5 RBI with a fWAR of 4.8. Obviously some categories are more attainable than others, but I do feel like this is closer than what ZIPS is giving us (minus the doubles, of course). The slugging percentage would put him in the top 15 or so across the game as well, which probably isn’t a fair expectation.
For the sake of being able to come back to it more than a year from now and either a) laugh at myself for how wrong I was, or b) gloat about how close I was, I’ll give you my own prediction. I’m going to say that Bichette hits .284/.337/.427 with 24 home runs, 41 doubles, 64 RBI, and a fWAR rating of 4..4. Obviously I’m talking about Bichette as an All-Star calibre player, but I don’t think that’s too far off, even at this early stage of his career.
If we look at how much Vladimir Guerrero Jr. adjusted to the league as he went along this year, it made me all that much more confident in the elite talent in Toronto right now. Bichette has started his career on fire, and while he can’t keep up this ridiculous level of production forever, I do think he’s a star in the making for the Blue Jays, even as soon as 2020.