Heading into the season, Cavan Biggio was a good, not great, prospect for the Blue Jays. He was perhaps more known for his bloodline, being the son of hall of famer Craig Biggio, than his future potential, as he was ranked as just the 12th best prospect in the Jays system before the year began and slapped with basically average skill grades across the board. After a call-up in late May, he has now amassed nearly 300 plate appearance, representing about a half a season worth of stats to evaluate. A quick look at his underwhelming .314 wOBA suggests he hasn’t enjoyed a very strong start to his career. A deeper look, however, reveals a very different story.
Biggio’s statistical profile over a relatively small sample size is quite interesting and certainly intriguing. We’ll first start with the sky-high walk rate, currently sitting at 16%. That’s the 10th highest mark in baseball among hitters with at least 250 plate appearances (272 of them). That’s unbelievably impressive for a 24-year-old rookie.
What has driven that impressive walk rate? An absolute hatred for swinging at pitches outside the strike zone. His 14.9% O-Swing% ranks second lowest in baseball before a big gap to third place. Again, as a rookie. That’s quite the foundation to start a career, as knowing which pitches to swing at and not swing at is a skill some players take an entire career to learn. What’s funny is that his O-Contact% is also well below the league average, so what that means is he rarely swings at balls, and when he actually does, he whiffs more often than makes contact. Both of those things have driven his walk rate as high as it is.
To go along with that high walk rate, he has also struck out at a rate a bit higher than you would like. No, it’s not an alarming level, but you would prefer a guy who is striking out 28.5% of the time to supply more power than Biggio’s .167 ISO. But guess what…this isn’t the result of a young guy flailing away, having difficulty make contact. His 8.2% SwStk% is actually excellent and well below the 11.1% league average, and his Z-Contact% is marginally better than the league average.
In actuality, the strikeouts are mostly the result of his patience, as he has also swung at a lower than league average rate of balls inside the strike zone. So he’s essentially watching as strike three sails on past for a called strike, ending his plate appearance. A whopping 37.8% of his strikeouts have come via the called strike, versus a 22.7% league average. It’s a really simple fix here — be more aggressive on pitches inside the strike zone! Surely this is a better situation than if he was whiffing like crazy.
Now let’s discuss his batted ball profile, which is simply pristine. A 25.2% LD% is fabulous, a 2.8% IFFB% (just 2 pop-ups all season) is wonderful, and he’s got the mid-40% fly ball rate you want to see from a future home run stud. It’s true that all those fly balls hamper his BABIP, but those are, or should be, offset somewhat by the high LD% and few pop-ups.
Unfortunately, his BABIP appears to have been harmed too greatly by those flies than the line drives and lack of pop-ups could make up for, as it sits at just .275. It’s easy to look at that FB% and blindly call his BABIP deserved. But that would mean ignoring everything else that affects BABIP. I calculated his xBABIP, and when you combine the negative of his flies with everything else that is good, including a strong Hard% and solid speed, the result is an expected BABIP of .323, which is a huge positive swing. The only other factor hurting him besides the flies is a penchant for grounding into the shift. But everything else he has done should be benefiting his BABIP, a mark that should really stand over .300.
Lastly, let’s take a look at his home run power. So far, he has posted a 13.9% HR/FB rate, which is just above what he posted at Triple-A before his promotion, and a regression from where he sat in the high teens at Double-A last year. Given his pre-season Game Power of 45/50 and minor league history, one might look at that HR/FB rate and be content that this is his true talent level at the moment. Instead, with a strong average fly ball distance and better than average fly ball pull rate, his xHR/FB rate is a slightly more respectable 16%.
Though Biggio hasn’t performed well defensively, which could be problematic in the future, especially if he suffers through any extended slumps, his offensive skills have been mighty impressive. While he probably won’t be a big help in average anytime soon, he shouldn’t be as much of a drag as he has been so far. If your league uses OBP, his value gets an enormous boost. With his solid all-around skills, a bit better luck could vault him toward the top of the stack of second basemen on offense.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.