‘Hart of the Order’
By Sean Hartnett
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Yankee fans will be eagerly tracking the progress of 18-year old Dante Bichette Jr. as he continues his rise through the Bombers’ farm system.  The heralded prospect earned top honors as he took home the Gulf Coast League MVP title and helped the GCL Yankees defeat the GCL Mariners to win the Gulf Coast League championship.

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On his way to completing an MVP season, Bichette Jr. batted .342 with 47 RBI in 52 games.  Along with his 47 RBI, his 17 doubles and 67 all were league-leading totals.  He also showed a patient eye as he logged an on-base percentage of .446.  Bichette Jr. was a very slick fielder as he also led all GCL third basemen with a fielding percentage of .945.

His career already looks very promising as he has shaken any doubts about his 51st overall selection in the 2011 Major League Baseball Draft.  Bichette Jr. is quickly making a name for himself and escaping the shadow of comparisons to his former All-Star father.  Being the son of a celebrated major leaguer is often too heavy of a burden for many young prospects to carry but Dante Jr. is blazing his own trail.  He’s earning rave reviews from Yankee scouts and minor league personnel.

What stands out most about Bichette Jr. is the amount of maturity he has for a young ballplayer.  A 3-for-26 start in the Gulf Coast League might have been a big setback for most but Dante Jr. was able to self-adjust a flaw in his swing to turn around his season and earn the GCL MVP award.  It isn’t something typical of an 18-year old making his start in professional baseball as Mark Newman told Tim Bontempts of the New York Post.

“Obviously he comes from a baseball family, and not many kids have the background he has, but I haven’t seen anything like it,” Mark Newman, the organization’s senior vice president of baseball operations, said.  “I haven’t seen anybody make the adjustments he’s made on his own.  All I’ve done is ask him what he’s doing. I will say, ‘I noticed you do this. Why?’  And he will give me answer, and the answer sounded like the kind of answer a big leaguer would give. . . . He’s the real deal.”

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Gaining the experience of winning the Gulf Coast League championship wasn’t the only postseason involvement for Bichette Jr.  He was soon on his way to Staten Island to join up with the Single-A Staten Island Yankees for their playoff run that ended in the club’s sixth New York Penn League title.

As a whole, the Yankees’ organization always prides itself on winning minor league championships.  From General Manager Brian Cashman down to their minor league coaching and scouting staffs, their philosophy is to give prospects as much postseason experience as possible before their arrival in the major leagues.  At 18, Bichette Jr. of course has quite a few years ahead of him before he makes that jump but his progress is certainly encouraging.

He appears to have the combined offensive and defensive tools to one day go on to wear pinstripes at the major league level.  The entire package of what Bichette Jr. possesses – from ability to his makeup at a young age is impressive.  Even Derek Jeter struggled in his first year in the Gulf Coast League, batting only .202 and made 56 errors in the following year at Single-A Greensboro.  Bichette already is a plus-fielder to go along with his notable offensive attributes.

Bichette Jr.’s first year in minor league baseball makes him an exciting prospect to watch in 2012 and it’s likely that he’ll rise up the Yankees’ farm system as quickly as Jeter did once he ironed out the flaws in his game.

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Yankee fans – what do you make of Bichette Jr.’s minor league progress?  Share your opinions below and send your tweets to @HartyLFC.