Every Friday I will be taking a look at a prospect at one of the lower levels of the minor leagues who could be jumping into the upper echelons of prospect lists with a solid performance this season. This week I will be taking a look at Yankees' 3B prospect Dante Bichette Jr.
Weight: 215 lbs.
Age as of End of 2012: 20
On 40-Man Roster: No
Bichette was the Yankees' top draft pick from last year's amateur draft. He signed almost immediately after the draft, and was able to get into 54 games last season. He was primarily in the Gulf Coast League last year, but did end up appearing in 2 games in the NY-Penn League before the end of the season. Combined, he hit .335/.440/.507 with 4 HR, 48 RBI, went 3 for 7 on stolen base attempts, and drew 31 walks against 43 strikeouts there.
What Does He Bring To The Game?
Obviously, the first thing that jumps out is that he has a Major-League lineage. While that doesn't always translate to success, it doesn't generally hurt him either. Drafted as a third baseman, Bichette surprised last season by not embarassing himself there while posting that high batting average in a known pitchers' league. Here's what Kevin Goldstein had to say:
Bichette impresses with his hitting ability. He works the count like an advanced minor leaguer and has the potential to hit for average to go with his above-average power. He surprised even the Yankees with his defensive ability at the hot corner, as he showed good instincts and an impressive arm.
It sounds to me like Bichette's skills have not necessarily translated completely to performance yet, but I absolutely love hearing that a hitter's approach is more advanced than his level. The fact that he didn't fall completely on his face at 3B in his first stint there leads me to believe it could be possible for him to stay there long term.
Where Is He This Season?
Bichette was given a full-season assignment to start the season, as he was sent to the Yankees' Low-A affiliate in Charleston. Through Wednesday's games, he's hitting .254/.343/.305 with just 7 RBI and 2 extra base hits in 15 games.
What Could Be His Path To The Majors?
He is obviously a long way away still, so there's a lot of things that could change between now and then. To me, he seems like a level-per-year type, as they will hope for him to be ready to take over at 3B by the time Alex Rodriguez shows that he can no longer play the position capably. At a level per year, he would be in the Majors in 2016, which is a full season before A-Rod's contract expires after 2017.
What Could He Do When He Arrives?
The upside for Bichette is a slugging third baseman who can hit for a solid-to-above average batting average. Obviously, that has more value if he shows that he can stay at 3B, but the consensus seems to be that his bat would play in a corner outfield slot as well. If he cannot translate his power potential into performance, he could end up as a high batting average, 10-15 home run bat long-term. Either way he would likely be a starting 3B in most fantasy leagues if he develops as anticipated.
It would not surprise me if Bichette was moved up to High-A before the end of the season, but he would have to really crush the ball for that to end up happening. His numbers won't necessarily reflect the true skill level, as the Sally League is primarily known for having pitchers' parks in most of its' cities. There are a number of solid prospects in Charleston right now, and it wouldn't surprise me if they kept that group together for the next few seasons either. It seems to me that if Bichette has a good season this year, he could jump into the top 50-top 75 range on a lot of prospect lists.