Cavan Biggio has always had the tools to be a useful big-leaguer. He has a strong left-handed swing, his plate discipline is spectacular and he’s a versatile, athletic defender. Yet, for all his gifts, the Toronto Blue Jays utility man has struggled to sustain success over the last two campaigns.
Part of that has to do with some bad luck — he battled neck and elbow issues that washed away his 2021 season. Biggio also never seemed comfortable playing third base last season, which oftentimes bleeds into a player’s overall confidence.
After a bumpy start to 2022, everything is finally clicking. With a multi-week COVID-19 injured list stint behind him, the 27-year-old has settled in, slashing .273/.420/.527 over his last 19 games. He’s also added two homers and boasts a 13:16 walk-to-strikeout ratio during that span.
“Hitting, it’s a funny concept,” Biggio said. “You can be feeling good one day, and then you can feel not so good for a couple of days. So it's really just understanding my swing and really what positions I need to get into to be successful against every type of pitcher.”
Those hitting “positions” are tricky to figure out, and Biggio has a good grip on his mechanics right now. That’s been a big factor in his success.
“My direction, I’d say, has been pretty good,” he said. “Being able to cover the plate — east, west, top to bottom — it’s been better for me.
“What's changed for me, the biggest thing, is I'm not really trying to load too much on my bottom half. I’m more just trying to focus up top and keep my hands moving back in a direction, and I’m freeing them up and letting them go.”
This type of comprehensive analysis is still a relatively new concept for Biggio, who insists he never really stressed about his swing mechanics until he reached Double-A or Triple-A as a minor-leaguer.
“He’s more of a ‘feel’ guy,” said Jays bench coach John Schneider, who first managed Biggio in A-ball Lansing in 2016. “If he's working in the cage or taking BP, he wants to feel things rather than kind of break them down.
"His swing is very simple; his mechanics have been consistent since I've known him, so he doesn't think much about it.”
Biggio always possessed elite strike zone command as a hitter, and the power gradually arrived in his early minor-league days as he smoothed out the kinks in his unique swing, learning to torque his upper body more, sort of like how Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger does it.
This season, Biggio has mashed breaking balls (.900 slugging percentage against sliders and curves), but his two homers have come off fastballs that he’s been able to yank to right field.
Last season, when Biggio struggled, he found himself trying to be too perfect by emphasizing going the other way and pulling the ball. As a result, he tied himself up. Not this year, though. He’s stepping into the box “not really thinking about anything” other than driving a good pitch.
“The majority of the balls that I drive are going to be pull side,” Biggio said. “That's where my aggression is where I like it to be. When my swing is going well, I'm able to even pull an outside pitch if I need to.”
Since Schneider has known Biggio nearly his entire pro career, he’s not surprised the bat is finally humming. What has impressed Schneider, though, is how well Biggio has handled his defensive utility duties, especially in the outfield.
“He's been awesome,” Schneider said. “Just put him in left; put him at second; put him at first; put him in right.”
That type of versatility is a manager’s dream. And Charlie Montoyo appreciates Biggio for both his willingness to play anywhere and his ability to work the count out of the nine-hole, where he has hit for most of the season. Before the year is over, Biggio might even play centre field, according to Montoyo.
Schneider has no doubts Biggio would handle that challenge well, too.
“I think guys that play infield that go to the outfield, they always say centre is the easiest, rather than corners,” he said. “So if we need [Biggio] out there, he's more than willing and able to do it.”
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