See Also: Bickford Headed For Junior College
See Also: Blue Jays Fail To Sign Bickford
PHOENIX—One pitch was all it took to ruin a masterful performance by Phil Bickford.
But that didn’t diminish the opinion of the 50 or so scouts on hand to watch Bickford—Toronto’s unsigned 2013 first-round pick—pitch for JC of Southern Nevada against South Mountain Community College.
The 6-foot-4, 205-pound righthander—who left Cal State Fullerton prior to his sophomore year in order to make himself eligible for the 2015 draft—projects to again be a first-round pick in June.
The 19-year-old Bickford on Saturday cruised through the first five innings, striking out nine and walking two without a hit. But he ran into trouble in the sixth, giving up an infield hit and then hitting a batter. The mistake came on a 3-2 pitch to sophomore Sabastian Zawada, who launched a high fastball over the left field fence to give his team a 3-2 lead it would not relinquish.
Despite the loss, Bickford is enjoying his time with his new team.
“This season’s been awesome,” said Bickford, who struck out eight in 4 2/3 innings a week ago in his debut at JC of Southern Nevada, which counts Bryce Harper among its alumni. “We’re off to a little rough start, but I have a lot of confidence in this team and I’m excited to see how it all plays out.”
Bickford’s fastball sat 90-91 mph with sink, touching 94, although the velocity dipped into the high 80s by his final inning. His 78-81 mph slider with decent rotation was inconsistent, but flashed plus at times. He hasn’t yet used his changeup this season, but should have it ready to go before long.
Bickford has a chance to improve his draft stock from 2013, especially if he can continue to showcase the overpowering stuff he unleashed in the Cape Cod League this summer. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and bumped the high 90s in a relief role this summer, but he often pitched with an average fastball in a starting role this spring. He’ll need to prove he can maintain electric stuff as a starter—and show more consistent secondary stuff—in order to be drafted in the top 10 picks again this year.
“After this summer I got more command with the slider,” Bickford said. “Now I’m trying to get more command with the changeup as well … I’m working on the secondary stuff and trying to command all parts of the plate with it.
Scouts noted that Bickford throws with a loose arm and with strength to his legs. He consistently repeated his delivery with no red flags. While he has a tall, lanky frame, one observer questioned how much weight he’ll be able to add to his current build.
This June will be Bickford’s second go-around through the draft. He was the 10th pick in 2013 by Toronto, but the sides failed to reach an agreement as Bickford reportedly sought $4.25 million, significantly more than the $2,921,400 assigned value for the No. 10 selection.
Bickford ended up at Cal State Fullerton and went 6-3, 2.13 in 20 appearances and 10 starts as a freshman. He then ranked sixth among Cape Cod League prospects and decided to leave Fullerton to enroll at a junior college, allowing him to go back into the draft earlier than he had stayed at the four-year school.