The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Bo knows hitting: may be best of exciting rookie class

Bo knows hitting.

No, this isn’t referring to Bo Jackson, the superhuman athlete from the ‘80s and ‘90s who was an all-star outfielder in Major League Baseball and a Pro Bowl running back in the National Football League at the same time.

This is the latest Bo, Bo Bichette, the Toronto Blue Jays’ rookie shortstop who’s become the latest rookie sensation after only fourteen games in the majors.  He’s already been mentioned with one of baseball’s most legendary hitters, Ted Williams.

The Blue Jays’ No. 1 prospect has some big shoes to fill.  Besides being the son of a former major-league all-star, his callup on July 29 comes after the debuts of a new crop of young stars who have already made an imprint on the league and figure to be around for quite a while.  That group was already being labeled the best rookie class of the past few years, and Bichette is on a path to be remembered as part of that lofty group.

A couple of these rookies are Bichette’s new teammates with the Toronto Blue Jays.  Like Bichette, they are the sons of former major leaguers.  Third baseman Vlad Guerrero Jr., the son of Hall of Famer Vlad Guerrero, was the pre-season overall No. 1 prospect in organized baseball, and he hasn’t disappointed anyone with his hitting.  He set a record for most home runs in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star break.  Second baseman Cavan Biggio is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.  With not as much raw talent as Guerrero, Biggio is developing into a better-than-average player.

Guerrero, Biggio, and Bichette are part of a youth movement in Toronto, along with second-year player Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (the brother of Astros first baseman Yuli Gurriel).  Blue Jays fans are looking forward to the day when these youngsters will have Toronto back into the conversation as a contender in the AL East Division.

Other rookies in the majors have turned a lot of heads, too.

New York Mets first baseman Pete Alonso is among the league leaders in home runs.  He has already set records for most home runs by a rookie.  Fernando Tatis Jr. is an exciting all-around shortstop adept at hitting, fielding, and running the bases.  He is forecasted to lead a rejuvenated San Diego Padres team back into prominence.

The Houston Astros were already a highly-talented team when they promoted Yordan Alvarez to temporarily backfill some injured players.  Now they can’t keep him out of the lineup.  He’s been the AL Rookie of the Month for both June and July.  Atlanta’s Austin Riley made a big splash in his debut and wound up as May’s NL Rookie of the Month.  Boston Red Sox super utility player Michael Chavis manages to find a spot in the lineup each day due to his versatility.

Among the talented group of rookies, Bichette appears to be the best pure hitter.  He has a sweet swing and can hit to all fields.  Although he’s hit four home runs, his game is not solely dependent on hitting the long ball.  He’s had multiple hits in nine of his first 14 games.  He is currently batting .367 with an OPS of .424.

Bichette emerged in the limelight because he was the first player in MLB history with a doubles streak of nine games.  He is the first rookie since Ted Williams in 1939 to have an extra-base hit in nine straight games.

Bichette’s father, Dante, was a 14-year veteran of the majors.  A four-time all-star outfielder with the Colorado Rockies, he was runner-up for NL MVP in 1995, when he led the league with 40 HRs and 128 RBIs.  Bo’s brother, Dante Jr., was a first-round pick of the Yankees in 2011.  He played in the Washington Nationals organization this year.  The elder Bichette was known to wear a mullet haircut during his playing days.  Now his son sports a set of locks that flow freely out the back of his hat.

Bichette probably won’t wind up with American League Rookie of the Year honors this season because of his late start.  He has a lot of ground to make up in order to catch Alvarez’s impressive offensive numbers so far.  But don’t count Bichette out as being the best of this rookie class for the long term.  After all, he knows hitting.

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