Phil Bickford | RHP
Bickford was the tenth overall pick in the 2013 draft out of a Southern California high school, but he declined to take a below-slot offer from the Blue Jays and instead went to Cal State Fullerton. He had a 2.13 ERA with a 74/13 K/BB in 76 innings as a freshman, then transferred to the College of Southern Nevada, a two-year school that allows him to re-enter the draft this summer rather than wait until next year. Bickford has a 1.48 ERA with a 126/17 K/BB in 68 innings this spring.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 205 lbs., Bickford’s fastball velocity has been all over the place the last three years. He sat 92-94 mph with some 97s as a high school senior, dropped to 88-91 mph at Fullerton, and is now sitting 93-96 mph with a bunch of 98s this spring. Bickford throws both a slider and a curveball but will probably drop the curve as a pro because it’s his far inferior breaking ball. His changeup is very much a work in progress and will have to improve considerably for him to remain a starter long-term. Bickford is a great athlete with a fluid delivery, which suggests his presently below-average command can be improved long-term.
Bickford is one of the most polarizing prospects in the 2015 draft. Some see a future ace because of his fastball/slider combo and athleticism, others see a future reliever because his command and changeup are subpar. (Bickford pitched out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League last summer and was electric, sitting 94-98 and striking out 42 in 27.2 innings.) MLB.com, Baseball America, and Keith Law (subs. req’d) ranked Bickford as the 16th, 20th, and 34th best prospect in this draft class in their latest rankings, respectively. For what it’s worth, the Yankees were connected to Bickford back in 2013, and scouting director Damon Oppenheimer seems to love Southern California pitchers. New York picks 16th and 30th overall this summer.