Bichette, of course, corrected soon after, resuming the accelerated trajectory that led him to his league debut a year later, at just 21. The difficult period was nothing but failure, although the experience provided him with a point of reference as he started the 2021 season at a more than respectable pace but below his high standards with the Blue Jays of Toronto.
“I’m not at all close to going through what I did in double A,” he said before Wednesday night’s meeting with the New York Yankees was cut short and rescheduled in doubles Thursday. . “One big reason is that I’ve been able to separate the way I feel in the box from the way my mind works in the box. I was able to compete whether I felt good or bad. In doubles A, it was the first time I felt uncomfortable in the box and I didn’t know how to deal with it mentally. So it all came down. But I think I was able to compete well and make the most of what I felt. But I feel better and just work on consistency.
Now, a lot of players would gladly take at .270 / .318 / .469 in 211 home plate appearances in 47 games when they felt their best, which makes Bichette’s numbers impressive considering he was feeling ” a little disappointed”.
The struggles for veteran players with several seasons under their belt can easily spiral out of control, underscoring why the approach Bichette, all 23, has taken for the past two months is so important.
Although he thinks that “a lot of things need to improve” on the plate, he mostly avoided letting his discomfort on the plate eat his mind in the box.
“I did a really good job of not caring about how I feel with my swing or anything and just going out there and competing,” he said. “There were times when I thought about it and times when I didn’t do very well. But I think for the most part I’ve separated the two, competed and I think consistency is coming. I’m a lot more consistent now than I was earlier in the year. So as long as it keeps improving, I think I’ll be in a good position.
The fact that he’s able to take such a perspective and be confident in his ability to adapt and recover demonstrates the benefits of challenging players in the minor leagues before they transition to the majors.
Young prospects who barge in and contribute are no longer the rarities of years past and the Blue Jays have been aggressive in this regard. Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who debuted at 20, are rare talents, but Alejandro Kirk made his debut at 21 last year despite never playing over the A-ball. Nate Pearson was 23 when he broke through with just 36 pro starts to his name, although injuries played a part in that.
Alek Manoah, whose debut was postponed in Thursday’s double-title opener, has made just nine pro starts, not counting his stint at the alternative training site in 2020. The 23-year-old faced many bumps in high school and college. , while for long stretches he was a guy on a pitch that was shaping up as a potential reliever, but he won’t have much difficulty shooting when he hits a rough patch in the majors.
The experience of overcoming failure “doesn’t hurt,” said Bichette, “but at the same time, you’re going to have to learn to get over the big boys as well. Manoah, of course, has a lot of talent. Maybe he won’t go through any difficulties, but if he does, he’ll have to learn at that level anyway. So for me, I don’t think it’s essential that you learn how to overcome this problem before. “
There is no one-size-fits-all formula, of course, and what works for one player isn’t guaranteed to work for another. One school of thought is that waiting too long to promote a prospect won’t hurt player development, but doing it too soon will. Another school argues that if a player can’t recover from a bad patch in the majors, he’ll never be good enough anyway.
Sometimes, however, a player may just need the big leagues to show him what he doesn’t know.
“Yeah, I was definitely at that point,” Bichette said. “Hitting the big guys at a younger age can also speed up your development process, because I always say that every level is something to take. Wrestling at double-A is not the same as wrestling at triple-A. Fighting in triple-A is not the same as fighting in the big leagues. You can overcome all of these bumps in the minor leagues. But it is not the same with the big leagues. You have to learn how to do it here. I felt really ready when I went up. And playing well in the big leagues can give you the confidence that you can do it.
Such an approach has worked for Bichette, and the Blue Jays really need it to work for Manoah right now, too.