Scouting Yanks Prospect #47:Dante Bichette Jr

The Yankees selected third baseman Dante Bichette Jr. in the first round of the 2011 MLB Draft out of Orangewood Christian High School in Florida. He had struggled pretty mightily over the course of his first two full seasons in the organization at the low-A level but bounced back in a big way last season to reverse his once sliding prospect status.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Dante Bichette Jr.
Position: Third Base
DOB: September 26, 1992
Height: 6'1"
Weight: 215
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He had struggled big-time making the adjustment to the long-season leagues after a tremendous debut season in 2011, hitting just a combined .232 over two seasons at the low-A level with an OPS in the lower 600s but bounced back with a strong season last year, hitting .271 with a .763 OPS for the high-A Tampa Yankees before a late season promotion to Double-A.

"Last season was great for me," Bichette said. "I literally put 100 percent of my physical and mental everything into it, and it really paid off for me.

"I took my routine and pre-game work extremely serious, and I learned a lot about preparation and just how to go about things everyday. It was a very constructive year for me."

It wasn't as if he didn't put forth the effort in the seasons prior but as is the case with nearly every young prospect he just had to make the mental adjustment to life as a professional ball player and that adjustment simply took a little longer than he and others would have liked.

"I think it was a lack of maturity those first couple of years," he said. "I just didn't really know how to do it. I was 19 -- I'm not saying I'm an old guy now -- but I was younger back then and didn't really know everything I was supposed to do. I talked to some coaches, I talked to my pops, and he helped out."

Having his father as a resource, one who not only was a former big league All Star in his playing days but a since retired big league hitting coach whose new career path was solely helping out his two sons, has certainly helped. But what has also been instrumental in his turnaround is no longer changing things up.

Widely known as a player during his two-year struggle as one who would constantly changed his hitting mechanics -- employing leg-kicks, tweaking leg-kicks, removing leg-kicks, and bringing back leg-kicks -- he finally realized none of that really mattered.

"You know what I learned was mechanics was irrelevant," he opined. "My mechanics had nothing to do with my success, it was all entirely neck-up stuff. I really just got my confidence back, got my swagger back, and once you got your confidence back -- I learned last year that if you believe you can do something then you definitely can. I think it was my mind game last year that really helped me."

There wasn't any real change to his approach in the batter's box either. He wasn't up there to see more pitches, be aggressive earlier in counts, or use the whole field more. He simply tried to keep his approach simple and not over-think things.

"That was never really the goal, I never went up to the plate wanting to see more pitches or be more of a "professional hitter'," he admitted. "All I did was take my practice straight into the game, my pre-game and cage work, and keep things simple in my mind especially. When I went out into the games I just tried to do the same thing and it wound up fixing a lot of problems."

He basically got out of his own head. Often times his own worst critic when he was struggling, rather than constantly trying to tweak his game he simplified his mental approach and focused on just being in better physical shape.

"Without a doubt. I took the offseason [last year] really seriously in the weight room. I got after it with my dad and my brother, and spent the entire offseason, just like I have so far this offseason, getting ready and it really changed a lot of things.

"It made me stronger, faster, quicker, and cleaned up the body and I think it's important for how you feel out there everyday. It's a long season and you have to be at your peak."

He knew that entering the 2014 campaign it was going to a pivotal season for him. He didn't sugarcoat things; he knew he had not lived up to expectations at all.

"It was incredibly important," he admitted. "It's hard to bounce back from two pretty bad years and I was able to do that. If you have three bad years or four you can fall off a little bit and last year was about getting myself back on track, and really just grab things by the horns and take control of my career. The year coming up this season is even bigger and I think there's bigger things in store too.

"I think for the rest of my career it's always going to be the biggest year of my life coming up just because there's always something to prove, there's always something left for you to do. I kind of learned last year to play with a bit of a chip on my shoulder and that's very helpful for me.

"I do well when I have to prove something or when I'm in a tight spot. I kind of learned how to play like that and this coming year is just as big, if not bigger. I'm in Double-A now and anything can happen from here."

While the numbers in Double-A last year were not overwhelming, he and the Yankees felt like he hit the ball well in his brief Eastern League exposure and everyone believes he is well on his way to be completely "back" as one of the better prospects again.

"Without a doubt. After a couple of rough years it's hard not to feel lost. Your confidence shoots down and you begin to question some things but I definitely got it back this past year. You can ask P.J. [Pilittere] our hitting coach -- he knows me as well as anyone in this organization, he can vouch for it -- the confidence came back, the swagger came back, everything came together. It's a good thing.

"I feel like I can always get better. I've told my dad this and other people who have asked, last year was good but that's still not the Dante that can come out. I don't want to set any limits but I can definitely be better than last year," he concluded.

Year

Team

AVG

AB

2B

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

SO

OBP

SLG

2014 Trenton .224 67 3 1 4 7 0 6 11 .297 .313
2014 Tampa .271 402 27 9 64 56 1 50 90 .352 .410
2013 Charleston .214 435 16 11 61 47 1 43 119 .292 .331
2012 Charleston .248 471 24 3 46 67 3 44 94 .322 .331
2011 Staten Island .143 7 0 1 1 1 0 1 2 .250 .571
2011 GCL Yankees .342 196 17 3 47 33 3 30 41 .446 .505


Batting and Power. Approach-wise Bichette has the foundation in place to be a solid average hitter; good patience, solid pitch recognition, and an ability to use the whole field. However, he does employ a bit of a leg-kick and toe-tap as a timing mechanism so his swing can get a little long at times, and it does make him susceptible to sustained droughts when his timing is off so he'll run into both hot and cold stretches as a hitter. The timing mechanism also helps him generate some powerful torque in his swing too so while the power numbers thus far have been more average than anything, there is is some above average long-term potential.

Base Running and Speed. Like most corner guys he's not much of a running threat. He is an average station to station runner who will neither help nor hurt his team on the base paths.

Defense. Bichette's oft-criticized defensive game is a bit overblown. While he probably doesn't have a Gold Glove caliber ceiling in the field, he is more than adequate. He shows above average arm strength, soft hands, and he has become quite proficient at making the slow-roller plays. His range is a little limited though so he projects to be an average defender at the hot corner but one who can stick at the position long-term just as long as he keeps up on his conditioning annually.

Projection. He isn't a difference-maker in the field so a lot of his long-term value is tied into his offensive potential and that's an aspect of his game that is still developing. He has what it takes to be a solid offensive contributor -- average or better power potential, solid plate patience and pitch recognition, and an ability to use the whole field -- and getting his confidence back helps tie it all together better. He could stand to be a little shorter to the ball, however, but that may take some more time to develop. He has the ceiling of a starting big league third baseman if things come together for him, one who could slide in nicely as an eventual five or six hitter, but it will require a bit more consistency with the bat to get there.

ETA. 2017. Bichette is headed back to Double-A in 2015 and while a late season call-up to Triple-A if he continues to hit well would not be out of the question the smarter bet has him remaining a mainstay in the Trenton lineup all season long. The signing of Chase Headley this offseason means Bichette will get at least two more years of development time before he becomes an option for the big league club.


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