TRENTON, NJ – A bit over three years ago, the Yankees selected Dante Bichette as a first-round compensation pick in the 2011 draft.
The skinny was he had the genes – his dad, Dante Sr., played with the Angels, Brewers, Rockies, Reds and Red Sox duringa big-league career that lasted from 1988-2001 – and the ability as a third baseman.
Dante Sr. earned four All-Star plaudits with the Rockies and a Silver Slugger Award. He was the Rockies hitting coach in 2013. So it seemed a no-brainer to select Dante Jr. out of Orangewood Christian High in Maitland, Fla.
The reasoning seemed sound when Dante Jr. hit .335 (68-for-203) between the Gulf Coast League Yankees and the Staten Island Yankees in 2011. Given that, the Yankees bumped Bichette to Low Clas-A Charleston in 2012, where he hit .248 (117-for-471) in 122 games. The feeling was a touch-up here and there in Charleston in 2013, then a promotion to High Class-A Tampa later in the season.
Except the figured trip to Tampa never came about, as Bichette hit just .214 (93-for-435) – striking out 119 times – in a season in which much more was expected.
Gone was Bichette’s confidence and his place in the Baseball America Yankees Top 30. The Talk was about Eric Jagielo and Miguel Andujar much more than Bichette. But the Yankees did not give up on their investment, and Bichette, promoted to Tampa to begin 2014, played his best baseball since 2011.
He hit .271 (109-for-402) in 109 games with the T-Yanks, compiling 27 doubles, nine homers and 65 RBIs. His play at third base was sharp, his plate discipline improved.
This resulted in his first promotion to Double-A Trenton, where, getting his feet wet in 12 games, he is batting .186 (8-for-43).
“I felt rewarded that the Yankees rewarded me with this promotion,” said Bichette. “I worked hard this year, realized a lot of things. The biggest thing about this season is I got my confidence back. I know I can play at this level.
“The good guys from Single-A get to go to Double-A, and it feels good to be included in that.”
Bichette, who turns 22 September 26, feels, rightfully so, his career is back on track. He’s going to the plate with a confident, comfortable feeling, which is what a developing hitter needs. When tough times come, the slate often needs to be wiped clean and re-started.
The Orlando native admits that’s exactly what he did.
“I just put my faith in the Lord and went out there winged it this year,” Bichette said. “I feel real good about things.”
Thunder manager Tony Franklin agrees with one of his newer players.
“Dante has a lot of talent,” said Franklin. “Like any young player, he does a lot of things well and wants to work on the rest of his game. I like what I see so far, and he’ll certainly start in Trenton next season.”
Bichette, coming from a baseball family, naturally receives advice not just from his dad, but his whole family as well.
“I do run everything past Pops,” he said. “And my 16-year-old brother knows what’s going on as good as anyone. We have a real tight family, which is a big help to me.”
Bichette has no issues knowing both Jagielo and Andujar will be competing with him in an improving Yankees system.
“You need that type of competition,” he said. “It’s good for all of us. The key is confidence. Greenie (Shane Greene) got his confidence up and look what he’s doing now.”
Bichette did get his career back on track in 2014, and he is again a factor. He knows what he has to do to keep in there.