Cavan Biggio has turned yet another corner this season. One year after blasting 26 home runs in Double-A New Hampshire, the 2016 fifth-round pick has ridden a torrid start at Triple-A Buffalo to a spot in the Toronto Blue Jays lineup. And while he remains an unfinished product, the early returns have been promising. Since debuting on May 24, the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio has a 114 wRC+, and he’s gone deep five times.
What type of hitter is the 24-year-old infielder? Part of that answer can found within our Blue Jays Top Prospects writeup, which dropped prior to spring training. A more recent, and much more comprehensive look, went up just one week ago, courtesy of my colleague Devan Fink.
And then there is Biggio’s own take. The young Blue Jays basher broke down his mechanics, as well as his power-and-patience approach, in a wide-ranging conversation that took place last weekend.
David Laurila: What is your hitting philosophy?
Cavan Biggio: “My goal is to get a pitch I can square up, and drive. Hitting the ball hard is my No. 1 goal. If I don’t get the pitch I want in the first couple of strikes, I’m going to take. Once I get to two strikes, I’m going to battle and just try to get on base.”
Laurila: Are you basically looking fastball middle?
Biggio: I’d say I’m pretty traditional in trying to hunt the heater. I look for a heater in the middle thirds: middle-in, middle, and middle-away. Those are the parts of the strike zone where I can do the most damage. I’ve also gotten better at recognizing offspeed while looking for the fastball, so if it’s a mistake— if it’s a hung breaking ball — hopefully I’m able to hold off a little bit, put a good swing on it, and barrel it up. So I’m basically trying to hit the heater, but if a guy makes a mistake with a breaking ball, I’m ready for that as well.”
Laurila: What is the key to recognizing an off-speed pitch, particularly one you can handle?
Biggio: “With some guys you’re able to pick up the spin. There are others who do a good job of spinning their breaking balls in a way that they look like their fastballs. Regardless, if a guy has a nasty breaking ball you’re probably not going to hit it anyhow. You want to take it — you want to let him have his nasty breaking ball — and hopefully he’s going to hang it eventually. So if I stay on the heater, and am able to recognize it early, and it stays up, I can do some damage on it.”
Laurila: What is your timing mechanism?
Biggio: “It’s very small. Something I’ve been working on the last couple of years is just having something to get my momentum back, and then straight forward, so that my direction is pretty much from the backstop straight to the pitcher. I don’t want to go side-to-side at all; I just want to go back, then straight forward, keeping my head still so that I can see the ball as best I can.”
Laurila: Are your hands starting close to your firing position?
Biggio: “Exactly. I like to preset them where I want them to fire from. It’s something I’ve kind of always done, although they did used to be a little bit higher and then would drift down. Two years ago, I brought them lower. Whatever my load was, I kind of didn’t want to move my hands. I just wanted to load, see the pitch, and go from there.”
Laurila: What about your lower half?
Biggio: “I’m a little bit wider than shoulder width, and while it might look like I have a knee tuck, in my head I’m just thinking of it as a weight transfer.”
Laurila: Are hitting analytics something you’ve delved into? Optimizing your bat path, and things of that nature.
Biggio: “For me, bat path is really big. I don’t want to get in-and-out of the zone. Being in the zone as long as possible is going to give me the best chance for success. But as far as analytics … I don’t really look at too many numbers when it comes to my swing. I kind of know what I’m doing — I kind of know if it’s good or bad — and what things I need to work on. For instance, when I get a little pull happy, I tend to fly open a lot. If they’re shifting me, and I keep grounding out into it, I’ll focus on using the whole field a little more.”
Laurila: Is using the whole field part of your overall approach?
Biggio: “I like to consider myself a guy who uses the whole field, and can drive the ball to all parts of the park. When I’m able to hit balls to left field, that forces the shortstop to come back over, and takes the second baseman out of the three-four hole. That way, if I do get an off-speed pitch and roll it over, but still hit it pretty good, it can be a base hit to right field.”
Laurila: Are you generally trying to catch the ball out front?
Biggio: “I actually like to see the ball deep. I think that’s why I have power; I can use my body to drive the ball. If I get too far out in front, I’ll tend to hook it foul. If I see it deep and outer half, I can go to left. If the pitch is more in, I came be more out in front, but not too far in front.”
Laurila: Where did you learn to hit? A lot of people probably assume your father played a huge role.
Biggio: “My dad didn’t really teach me a lot when it comes to … I guess I’d say that he taught me things I saw him do, versus him teaching me hands-on. I kind of learned how to hit by hitting my whole life. I’ve been able to pick things up that I can add to my game. When I started to get more advanced would be shortly after I got drafted.
“The biggest adjustments were after my first full season in High-A. I hit .230. I had a good start to the year, but the second half I found myself struggling a lot. The struggling was too long. It wasn’t just, ‘OK, I went a couple games without a hit.’ What I realized is that my bat path wasn’t in the zone as much as I wanted it to be. I would swing at a fastball — a good pitch to hit — and I would miss it, or foul it straight back. I would be, ‘Why am I doing that?’
“I watched some video and realized that my bat was coming in, and then it was coming out. So what I did going into that offseason was, as I said earlier, set my hands lower. I would set them, load, and launch from there.”
Laurila: You’d been too steep to the ball.
Biggio: “Exactly. That had been my natural swing, my natural hand position. Throughout college I kind of just stepped in the box and it was ‘This is how I’m going to hit.’ I just went out there and tried to go hard. But then, in High-A, I pretty much realized that I could be better if I made an adjustment. I’d been swinging and missing at too many pitches that I shouldn’t have been swinging and missing at.”
Laurila: Have you changed anything in your short time here in the big leagues?
Biggio: “No, but before this year I added a little bit more of a load; a little bit more of a push-back, versus a weight transfer. It’s a little more clear cut, and easier to do, for a longer period of time.”
Laurila: Nolan Arenado steps back onto his back leg.
Biggio: “I don’t step back. Basically, what I would do before is not lift my foot off the ground; I would just kind of lean back. I decided I needed something more clear cut, because sometimes that was really hard for me to feel. What I’ve done is kind of just lift off the ground with my front foot a little bit more. Again, it’s kind of a push-off, versus a weight transfer. That said, if you watch me hit, you won’t be able to notice much of a move at all. It’s really tiny.”
Laurila: Are you trying to take the same swing every time?
Biggio: “Yes. The same swing every time.”
Laurila: Regardless of pitch type and location?
Biggio: “Yes, I’m just trying to get the barrel to the ball, no matter where it is. I mean, if it’s inside, my hands are going to naturally come in more, and if it’s outside, I’m going to be reaching a little bit more, but overall, I want it to be the same swing.”
Laurila: We’ve covered a lot here, but is there anything else we should address?
Biggio: “Maybe that I take a lot of pitches? I like to see a lot of pitches. Early in the count, I’m not going to swing at a pitch on the corner, or a little bit off. We did kind of touch on that earlier. I want to wait until the pitcher makes a mistake.”
Laurila: Do you ever find yourself taking too many pitches?
Biggio: “I have in the past, but I’ve gotten better with that. I’ve gotten better at being selectively aggressive.”
Laurila: Working deep counts can obviously contribute to higher strikeout totals. Do you care about strikeouts?
Biggio: “I do. I hate striking out. It’s not fun. But for what I do, the amount of pitches I see … I mean, I don’t want to get off my game. Certain strikeouts bother me, but at times you have to tip your hat to the pitcher. Hopefully you don’t have to tip it too often.”
David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.