Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio are bringing far more to the Buffalo Bisons than their talents and famous surnames.
The pair have a history of winning minor league championships. Last season, they helped Double-A New Hampshire capture the Eastern League title. In 2017, they helped Class A Dunedin to the Florida State League co-championship, after the finals were canceled because of Hurricane Irma.
That history breeds an atmosphere where winning is expected, and that’s a welcome change for the Toronto Blue Jays’ Triple-A affiliate. The Bisons have not won a title since 2004 and have not made the playoffs since 2005, the longest drought in the International League.
“It's always fun to win, so when you come to the ballpark expecting to win, that kind of rubs off on the guys around you,” Bisons manager Bobby Meacham said. “I'm sure they're excited and I'm excited to see that expectancy to win. I had that back in my playing days when I got traded over to the Yankees' system and you could just feel that everybody expected to win."
The 135th season of professional baseball in Buffalo begins when the Bisons host the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders at 2:05 p.m. Thursday at Sahlen Field. And like the re-named ballpark, the team’s biggest prospects arrive with established name recognition in Western New York. And wherever they go, for that matter.
Bichette, a shortstop, is the son of former Major League outfielder Dante Bichette, a four-time All-Star who led the National League in home runs and RBIs with the Colorado Rockies in 1995.
Biggio, a second baseman/outfielder, is the son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, a seven-time All-Star with the Houston Astros.
They’ll make their Triple-A debut with the Bisons this season and will, at some point, likely team with third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr. when the 20-year-old slugger and son of Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero returns to town. He remains in Florida, rehabbing an oblique injury since March 8.
“I think there’s probably a little bit of a different buzz around town going into this season, just with the guys that we do have coming here,” said Bisons infielder Andy Burns, who returns to the organization after playing the last two seasons in Korea. “The fact that they’ve already lived up to the hype to this point is impressive all on its own, so to see them do it at the final level before they get to the big leagues, it’ll be fun to watch, for sure.”
Bichette, 21, a second-round pick out of high school in 2016, is rated as the Blue Jays’ No. 2 prospect behind Guerrero, and No. 11 in the minors by MLB Pipeline. He batted .286 with 11 home runs and 74 RBIs last year at New Hampshire. He batted .410 with four homers and five RBIs this spring with the Blue Jays.
“I went into spring training wanting to put up numbers and wanting to make sure people knew I was ready to play in the big leagues,” Bichette said, “so I think I accomplished that.”
Biggio, 23, was a fifth-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2016 and is rated as the club’s No. 10 prospect. He batted .252 with 26 homers and 99 RBIs last year for New Hampshire. He hit .250 with three homers, eight runs and eight RBIs this spring with the Blue Jays.
"Winning makes everything a lot more fun,” Biggio said. “When you're trying to make yourself better and ready for the big leagues, winning makes your development go by that much faster and more fun versus it just being a grind all the time."
Biggio said he considers Bichette one of his closest friends, and that the pair rooms together on the road.
"We were drafted the same year,” Biggio said, “and even though I was three years older being a college guy, I think we had that immediate bond. We ended up playing with each other a year later, ended up playing the middle together, so there's been a lot of communication. We're always bouncing ideas around always been there for each other.”
Veteran infielder Eric Sogard, who joins the Bisons after spending parts of eight seasons with the Oakland A’s and Milwaukee Brewers, has high hopes for what this team can accomplish based on the young prospects’ track records.
“I think this will be a special group,” Sogard said. “Some of these guys have won multiple championships already coming up in the past, and a lot of them have kind of been staying together throughout that, so I think it’ll be a fun team to watch.”
Meacham said that Biggio's and Bichette’s experience playing together, and the internal competition they foster, is important to the team’s overall success.
“They've known each other for a couple years now,” Meachum said. “They know what each other likes and I think they know how to push each other. Even if they don't talk a lot about it, I'm sure there's a little competition with all three of those guys, Vladdy included, trying to steal the headlines away. They try to push in and get some headlines themselves. We're competing against the other team but a lot of times it's good to be pushing some other teammates, too.”
News sports reporter Mike Harrington contributed to this story.
Story topics: Buffalo Bisons