The Yankees’ selection of Dante Bichette Jr. with their sandwich-round pick (compensation for Javier Vazquez) was a surprising one to most people who follow the draft closely, as many people expected the Bombers to go after a higher-rated, more expensive prospect. When he was drafted, there were many criticisms of his swing mechanics, athleticism, and defensive ability, as well as accusations of nepotism (since Joe Girardi is friends with Dante Jr’s father, a former MLB’er). Many people were wondering why the Yankees would bother using an early pick on what some genius described a future Shelley Duncan type.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Bichette’s less than impressive pre-draft ranking on Baseball America was not truly representative of his talents. He signed quickly and tore up the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, winning league MVP by hitting .342/.446/.505 with 3 homers in 52 games, with 30 walks against 41 strikeouts. Bichette earned league MVP honors for his performance, as well as a promotion to Staten Island for the end of the season (where he went 1 for 7 with a home run). All in all, a very strong debut for a player known to have solid power potential and a great work ethic. Also heartening were reports that his defense at the hot corner had improved, perhaps to the point where it was no longer certain that he would have to move off the position.
Bichette earned many honors for his performance in 2011, not only winning the GCL MVP but was also named the top prospect in the league by Baseball America. He is probably the #5 or so prospect in the Yankee system at this point (behind Banuelos, Sanchez, Betances, Williams, and Campos), with plenty of room to move up the list if he continues his strong performance. He will likely start 2012 in Charleston, a significant step up in competition, which should provide a true test of his talents.
Going forward, Bichette will need to maintain his disciplined approach at the plate as he moves up throughout the minors, and hopefully he will continue to turn his power potential into power production on the field. Continuing to show improvement at 3rd base will also be important, since his bat would be less valuable at a corner outfield position (or at 1st base). I don’t expect him to OPS near 1.000 like he did in the GCL, but I’d consider an OPS of .850, solid plate discipline, and a fair share of home runs and doubles to be a successful season. He very well could be the Yankees’ 3rd-baseman of the future if everything goes according to plan, since by the time he hits the majors Alex Rodriguez will likely have moved to DH. There have been several interviews of Bichette published recently (one by YES and one by Nomaas) that are worth checking out, which give a good sense of the drive and work ethic that this kid has.
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