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On a team with big names, Biggio finds swing, power

By ROGER BROWN
New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2018 9:36PM
Fisher Cats infielder Cavan Biggio takes batting practice in Manchester last month. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Fisher Cats rained out, twinbill today
The Fisher Cats' home game against the Binghamton Rumble Ponies was rained out on Saturday. The teams will play a doubleheader today starting at 1:05 p.m.



CAVAN BIGGIO ... leads Eastern League in home runs

MANCHESTER -- Cavan Biggio is kind of like a middle child: He doesn't receive as much attention as either of the other two.

In his first season with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats, Biggio, 23, is operating in the shadow of shortstop Bo Bichette and third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. - two of the top prospects in minor league baseball - but has managed to steal some of the spotlight. Biggio entered the weekend leading the Eastern League in home runs (12) and ranked third in RBIs (33). This from a player who didn't hit a home run in 238 at-bats during his first professional season two years ago.

Biggio, who's listed at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds, credits his power surge to a swing he tinkered with in the offseason.

"I started my hands a little bit lower to keep the bat path in the (strike) zone a little bit more and create a higher percentage of harder-hit balls," Biggio explained. "That was my biggest thing: try to be more consistent with hitting balls hard. It wasn't anything that the organization wanted me to do, it was just on my own with what I wanted and needed to do.

"I'm not trying to hit the ball in the air. I'm just trying to keep my bat path in the zone and with my high finish (to his swing) it just creates (loft) on its own. It took me a little while to get comfortable with it, but before spring training I got it down and it feels pretty good right now."

Fisher Cats hitting coach Hunter Mense is among those who isn't surprised by Biggio's home run total - and that appears to be a small group.

"Not surprised with it at all because he's got some bat speed," Mense said. "The path that he takes through the zone is a path that creates kind of an uphill-type swing. He's always had some natural (power), but I think as he's gotten stronger and as he's learned to use his body better . and more so than anything understanding what pitch he can drive out of the park is probably the biggest piece to that."

Biggio, who has hit in the cleanup spot for most of the season, is primarily a second baseman, but has also been used at first base and third base this season. He moved from first to second after second baseman Lourdes Gurriel was called up to Toronto in April.

Like Guerrero and Bichette, who each has a father who played in the major leagues, Biggo has big-league bloodlines. His father Craig, a Baseball Hall of Famer, played for the Houston Astros from 1988 to 2007, and was also Biggio's coach at St. Thomas High School in Houston. St. Thomas won the Texas 5A championship in Biggio's freshman and sophomore seasons. Biggio also played four years of football in high school.

"Part of the thing in play for him too is he is so competitive," Mense explained. "He is super, super competitive. The best players I've been around, the best hitters I've been around ... when it's a guy out there (on the mound) who's pretty good they raise their level a little bit, and he's that way. The first at-bat I saw from him in spring training this year was against Aaron Nola, the opening-day starter for the Phillies. He was the second batter: home run."

The Phillies selected Biggio in the 29th round of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft, but he opted to play college baseball at Notre Dame instead. He hit 15 home runs in his three seasons at Notre Dame (he played in all 167 games) and was drafted by Toronto in the fifth round (162nd pick overall) in the 2016 draft. Biggio was taken three rounds after Bichette that year.

Biggio failed to homer in his first pro season, when he split time between Class A Vancouver (short season) and Class A Lansing (full season). He finished with 11 home runs in 463 at-bats for Class A Dunedin last season, but his average dipped to .233. He was batting .303 entering Saturday night's against Binghamton.

"I wasn't trying to increase my power numbers, per se," Biggio said. "I think my first short season I was more of a leadoff hitter like I was in college. I was just trying to put the ball in play and trying to get on base - be more of a table-setter. But going into my first full season last year I just tried to hit the ball harder more consistently and throughout the course of the year I learned that I needed a more consistent approach, and that's what I did this offseason. I learned what could take me to the next level. You're never complacent. You always want to get better.

"When I go up there I'm not trying to hit home runs. I'm just trying to hit the ball hard. I guess with this new swing path it creates more fly balls and I've been fortunate enough to hit a few over. I guess it is kind of a surprise."

Mense said Biggio's uppercut swing will lead to more strikeouts because he'll swing under some pitches, but that the added power more than compensates for a higher strikeout total.

"One of the things we talk about all the time is the pitch that he can hit out of the yard, and for him it's a pitch that's like thigh-high to below it," Mense said. "So with his path and the way it works it's uphill, and when it's an uphill swing any pitch that's up in the zone is going to be a tough pitch to hit. He has to lower his sight to get a pitch down - and he hasn't been missing those. When he gets that pitch down he doesn't miss it at all."

rbrown@unionleader.com


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