Cavan Biggio has surpassed expectations but is still too passive

Last night, Cavan Biggio was 4-5 with a single, double, triple, and a home run. Giving it a special name such as a “cycle” is silly, but it still undoubtedly a great game from a player who has been surprisingly good this season. Cavan and his father Craig Biggio are now the second father-son duo to accomplish that feat.

I am not a prospect writer, but that does not mean I have never seen any play in the minors or as amateurs. The problem is that I live in the Boston area, a place that is not conducive to scouting. I do live not too far from Cape Cod, though I have rarely been there. It is a great place, but it is a pain in the neck to get to, as anyone who has ever tried will tell you. It takes me 90 minutes to get to western Cape Cod with the usual amount of traffic. I know that might not sound too bad, but the last time I vacationed there to scout the talent, I found the talent to be not so great. I remember Keith Law telling me about the underwhelming Cape Cod League All-Star game one year that I went.

This is a long way of saying that I first saw Cavan Biggio at the Cape in 2014. Obviously a game with a son of a soon to be Hall of Famer caught my attention. I thought he was the best player on the field that day, but sadly that was not saying much. I thought he was nothing more than an organizational player, and real scouts seemed to agree with me. He did not have a clear position, did not seem to be able to hit for power, and did not have great bat speed. Two years later, the Blue Jays drafted Biggio in the fifth round of the 2016 draft.

I saw Biggio again in Double-A Manchester last year. It was the day before Memorial Day, and Biggio was raking. He was hitting .308/.426/.642 with 12 HR! Had he not been teammates with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., he probably would have gotten more attention. Of course, nobody expected him to continue to have a .334 ISO, but the fact that he was showing what looked like a real display of power was a great sign.

Some of Biggio’s main problems still persisted, though. He still did not have a clear position. Law thought he was fringe average at second base, and I was not too impressed seeing him play third base. He also had a serious passivity problem. It is great that he was able to draw so many walks, but he was declining to swing at pitches he absolutely should have swung at. Still, I came away from that game being happy that Biggio looked like he would be way better than I ever thought he would be.

Biggio made his major league debut almost one year to the day after I saw him. He continued to hit well in Double A and Triple A ever since, but I was concerned with how well he would fare in the majors. Major league pitchers are not afraid to challenge young new players, and that combined with Biggio’s passivity seemed like a bad combination. I feared a lot of backwards looking Ks on his scorecards.

Thankfully, I have been wrong so far. Over 88 games and 375 PA this season, he has hit a solid .221/.356/.399, good for a 105 wRC+ that is obviously driven by his OBP. He has primarily been a second baseman, but has played some first base and the corner outfield spots. His defense has been surprisingly okay, too, though I am a little skeptical that it will continue. He has also added a few runs with his legs, having stolen 11 bases without getting caught once!

Biggio’s passivity continues to be a problem, which might sound strange to say about a player who is walking over 17 percent of the time. Among players with at least 350 PA, only Mike Trout has walked at a higher rate! Let’s not diminish the importance of getting on base, but I think Biggio’s unremarkable .179 ISO could be a lot higher if he were more aggressive. Sure, it would cost him some OBP, but I think it is worth seeing if he can more than make up for that with the extra power he could hit for.

Again, it is great that Biggio only swings at pitchers outside the zone at roughly half the rate of the league average, but he his only swinging at pitches in the zone 63 percent of the time compared to the league average of 68.5 percent, and he is fairly adept at making contact when he does swing at those pitches. A guy with a 40.1 percent hard-hit rate needs to swing more!

Biggio has 2.2 bWAR and 1.6 fWAR in only 88 games. As is, that is a great result for a fifth rounder. However, his level of passivity is still concerning, and I wonder how sustainable it could be at the major league level. Pitchers are going to start figuring out that there is no reason not to pound the strike zone and force him to start swinging.

. . .

Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.

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