Bichette Growing Up

Bichette has a 17-game hit streak going

TAMPA, FL - Dante Bichette Jr. has been arguably one of the best hitters on the Tampa Yankees this season and in the farm system, but that hasn’t always been the case. Last season with Charleston, Bichette struggled to find his identity, hitting a dismal .214 with a career high 119 strikeouts. According to him, ballpark factors in Charleston and a lack of maturity were his downfall in 2013.

“I was young in Charleston, a lot more immature than I am now,” Bichette conceded. “It’s a big yard and I’m a right-handed power guy. You’ve got to be Aaron Judge to hit a bunch of home runs there. It was getting in my head but it was my fault for letting it get in my head.”

This year, he’s not making excuses. Bichette, who has a current 17-game hit streak going, has looked like an entirely new ballplayer this season, something he attributes to renewed confidence in himself.

“This year, I’ve taken it upon myself to just play my game and not let any of the other factors get in the way,” he said.

While Bichette has heightened confidence in himself, he also admits that he wouldn’t be where he is today without his strong faith in God. Though his faith has ebbed and flowed through adverse situations, Bichette emphasized that at the end of the day he draws his strength from above.

“It’s gone through waves the last few years. This last year I feel it’s been stronger than it has been before,” he said. “I just realized I needed to put him first. It’s something I need to stay on top of everyday, just like baseball.”

When taking a glance at some of his individual statistics this year, it’s evident that he’s been on top of his game. One area that stands out in particular is his success against left-handed pitching. In 82 at-bats against lefties, Bichette is hitting a supreme .341 with two home runs and nine runs batted in.

Also worth taking note of is his steadily increasing batting average, which has risen from .255 in May to .269 in June and now sits at .314 for the month of July. Considering he’s played almost every game this season, that’s an impressive feat.

Manager Al Pedrique believes this spike in productivity is due to not only a mental adjustment, but a physical one as well.

“He’s making the adjustments offensively, doing the best he can to stay with his approach on a daily basis,” Pedrique said. “He’s shown that when he does that he’s a consistent hitter, especially going the other way. He’s trying to stay inside the ball longer and shorten up his swing a little bit.”

Bichette has been altering his mechanics this season as well. According to his coaches, he’s picking better pitches to hit and taking a wiser approach when hitting with two strikes.

Carving out smart at-bats and finding other ways to contribute aside from just being a power hitter has been crucial for him. Because of his calmer approach at the plate, Bichette has made himself versatile and less predictable.

“Right now he’s slowing everything down," Pedrique said. "His swing has been more under control; he had a wild and crazy swing last year. This year he’s cut his strikeout ratio. He’s even been walking more because he’s been seeing the ball longer and trusting his hands."

Hitting coach P.J. Pilittere echoed Pedrique’s sentiments and has been impressed with Bichette’s ability to grind out at-bats.

“We call it shaving at-bats," Pilittere said. "There are days when you don’t feel great but you find a way to get one walk and that’s how you survive in this game. If you can find a hit or a walk it’ll keep you alive.”

For those still wondering about Bichette’s famed “leg kick” before swings, it’s not going away any time soon. As part of his new mantra of being himself and having confidence in his ability, Bichette has found success in bringing it back this year.

“When I first signed everyone said I had to get rid of it, so I did and I sucked," he said. "It’s just something that’s me. You can’t go away from what you do, you’ve got to stay yourself.”

While it’s hard to find fault with Bichette’s play this season, there are a few areas of his game that could use some work going forward. Pilittere, for one, believes there’s still untapped potential.

“I think he has more, he’s still trying to figure out who he is. We’re starting to see the positive side of who he is as a hitter so hopefully he can build on what he’s doing and continue to improve,” he said.

Pedrique agrees.

“Defensively he needs to keep working on his prep pitch set up, reading balls, reacting quicker, I know he’s been working hard on that. Offensively, he needs to be consistent with driving the ball the other way, staying compact with his swing because he has a lot of power,” Pedrique remarked.

Luckily, Bichette is flanked by a strong support group which includes his father, Dante Bichette Sr., a former Rockies outfielder and hitting coach. His coaches seem to have full confidence in him as well and are eager to see just how far the 21 year-old third baseman can take his abilities this year.

If Bichette can maintain his newfound confidence and continue to be patient at the plate, he’ll be one step closer to following in the footsteps of his father.

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