2014 Statistics: 127 G, .264/.345/.397, 10 HR, 30 2B
2014 Level/Roster Status: Double-A/Non-40
Coming into this season, the expectations for Dante Bichette Jr. were probably as low as they can get. After an incredible first season in Short Season and Rookie ball (combined .947 OPS), people expected Bichette to start to climb through the system starting in 2012. Unfortunately, that did not happen at all. He absolutely--to put it bluntly--tanked in 2012 and 2013 as he put up respective .653 and .623 OPS's with just 14 home runs in about 1,000 PA. Many thought at the time of the draft that he had been over-drafted for his slot, but no one thought he would fall that fast.
And then in 2014, he surprised us all. After those two dismal seasons, Bichette knew it was time for a change or else he would find himself out of affiliated ball rather quickly. Having a former Major League player as a father certainly helps, and he was able to simplify his approach at the plate in hopes that it would maximize his talent. Andrew wrote about this back in August, just as the results of this new approach at the plate started to pay off. Bichette was able to hit a very good 120 wRC+ in High-A Tampa while boosting his power numbers, cutting back on strikeouts, and increasing the amount of walks. All around, that's pretty good stuff.
After showing that he was capable, he was promoted to Double-A Trenton. That didn't go as well, and that's to be expected (especially in a limited sample of 74 PA); he only had a 73 wRC+ with just four extra base hits. This is partially because Trenton is a pitcher's park, but also because Double-A is usually the biggest adjustment. It's pretty much the closest one is going to get to seeing big league pitching (the talent in Triple-A is often filled with journeyman), and that was really going to put his new approach to the test.
Bichette has plenty of time to make adjustments; at just 21 years old, he is almost four years younger than the average Double-A player. He will spend this fall in the Arizona Fall League and will start 2015 with Double-A once again, so we'll see how he performs in a larger sample. I'm a little skeptical, but he's already exceeded expectations from a year or two ago by making it to Double-A; that's a success in of itself. If he really hits well like he did in High-A, then we could see him in Triple-A by the end of next season and could have a chance to try out for the team in 2016 out of spring training. 2014 wasn't a monster year, but it was definitely a step in the right direction for a prospect who was on the cusp of irrelevance.