Next up in our 2023 season preview series is shortstop Bo Bichette.
Addison Barger (story link)
Anthony Bass (story link)
Chris Bassitt (story link)
José Berríos (story link)
Before we fully dive into things, let's give a quick refresher on which projection systems we're going to be using.
Bichette, 24, already has appeared in parts of four seasons at the big league level for the Blue Jays. He has seemingly got better every single year so far and has led the American League in hits in each of the past two seasons.
STEAMER: 173 H, 26 HR, 93 RBI, .281/.329/.474, 129 wRC+
ZiPS: 173 H, 26 HR, 100 RBI, .280/.327/.469, 119 OPS+
Both STEAMER and ZiPS both have Bichette putting up similar offensive seasons, with STEAMER projecting he'll be 29 percent above league average and ZiPS putting him at 19 percent above league average.
A season like this would be a welcomed sight for Jays fans, as it would mark the third consecutive full season of stardom for Bichette. While both projection systems are thinking his total hits will come down, both have him hitting more home runs and driving in more runs.
Last year was a rollercoaster for the up-and-coming superstar. He began the year by hitting .213 and striking out 26 times in 22 games between April and March, heating up a bit in May and then coming back down to earth throughout June, July and August.
It was a red-hot September that really helped his case when giving an overall valuation of his 2022 performance. In 32 games, he posted a ludicrous .406/.444/.662 line, posting an OPS+ of 212 along the way. This hot month is undoubtedly what propelled him to another year of leading the AL in hits and helped him finish 11th in the AL MVP voting.
AVG EXIT VELOCITY
MAX EXIT VELOCITY
I can go on and on about what Bichette and his bat mean for this Jays club but you know I have to address the elephant in the room: his defense.
Bichette was never predicted to be a Gold Glove-winning shortstop over the course of his big league career but he also was not thought to be quite as awful at the position as he was last year.
Per Statcast, he finished the 2022 season in the seventh percentile in Outs Above Average and was in just the 46th percentile in overall arm strength. His FanGraphs fielding value went from 1.1 in 2020 to -3.0 in 2021 all the way down to -6.7 last year.
Bichette's UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), which combines a whole slew of advanced defensive metrics into one, went from -5.2 in 2021 to -15.4 last year. Yes, you read that right. Obviously all of these statistics are not going to cut it for a player the Jays would like to stay at shortstop long term.
One thing Bichette has on his side here is his age. He is still extremely young and is very much still coming into his own at the big league level, especially on defense. The bat is there, we all know that. PitcherList's "Hitter List" ranks him as the 17th-best hitter in all of baseball. The guy is legit there.
The moral of the story here is that Bichette's bat is good to go. It will be interesting to watch how he comes into next season on defense, because a move to second base is not out of the question in the near future if something doesn't change.