The CSN report was nicely done, covering all the essentials (saves me the job of finding these readily available info elsewhere), so I will quote it here:
Bickford was ranked No. 27 on Baseball America's Top 500 Draft Prospects.
Two years ago, Bickford was selected with the No. 10 pick by the Toronto Blue Jays out of Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian High School. Toronto was unable to sign him and he instead went to Cal State Fullerton for his freshman year.
After one season at CSU Fullerton where he went 6-3 with a 2.13 ERA and posted 74 strikeouts in 76 innings pitched, Bickford transferred to the College of Southern Nevada to become draft eligible for 2015.MLB.com ranked him #21, Minor League Ball's Garrioch ranked him #42, Fangraph's McDaniels ranked him #25 in his draftboard.
In his one year at Southern Nevada, Bickford went 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA and struck out 166 batters compared to only 21 walks in 86.2 innings pitched.
FYI, Baggarly has a great article regarding Barr's successes in filling out our infield with draft picks. I highly recommend a read.
Experts' Lowdown on Bickford
Here is some good info on Bickford from Baggarly's article:
He’s a 6-foot-4, 195-pounder who throws a power breaking ball and a fastball that has topped out at 97 mph as a reliever but sits more in the low-90s as a starter with good, sinking life.
Barr said he envisions Bickford as a starting pitcher, saying the Giants loved his combination of size and arm speed. Although he has eligibility remaining, Bickford has not made a four-year college commitment and Barr is confident that he is eager to sign.
“Everywhere up the line, we continued to watch him,” Barr said of Bickford, who spent one season at Cal State Fullerton and pitched in the Cape Cod League before transferring to the same Nevada junior college that served as a holding tank for star outfielder Bryce Harper.
“We saw him multiple times and he’s up to 97 with his fastball, will show you an occasional plus slider and you can see from his stats that he may have plus control. Some say you could move him to the ‘pen and he could move quick, but that’s not how we project him.”
Bickford, whose long, blond hair spills out the back of his cap, also tested positive for marijuana in a predraft drug screen, according to a report in Baseball America. Barr declined to comment on the report but said area scout Chuck Fick filed positive reports about Bickford’s makeup. “We do feel good about him,” Barr said. “Not only in his ability, but we believe he has the makeup to fulfill his ability.”
Bickford was Scenic West Athletic Conference pitcher of the year at Southern Nevada after going 9-1, 1.45 with 166 strikeouts in 87 innings.And, clearly, marijuana smoking is not a problem area for the Giants (let Timmy smoke!).
Garrioch noted in his mock:
Bickford has an electric arm. Bickford still pops the 97 like he did in HS but only when he throws out of the pen. The slider is plus and he may be a reliever but the Pirates seem to get more out of arms than what they are supposed to. When people say this draft isn't a good one, remember that it includes a former first overall pick and 10th overall pick that will likely go in the bottom half of the first round.As noted above, Bickford is the former #10 pick. However, Garrioch was not that impressed in his ranking:
Phil Bickford has taken an odd path. Former 1st round pick. Dominant D1 starting pitcher. He left to go to a JuCo this year and no one really knows why. The stuff hasn't improved since the 2013 draft. He still throws low 90's and can get up to 97. The breaking ball is still plus on occasion but is inconsistent and the change is average with potential. He is just two years older, that's all. He has shown he can dominate college hitters but hasn't shown he can be consistent. I like Bickford but much less than most. I think he's a #3/4 starter and potentially an impact reliever.McDaniels noted in his draftboard:
Bickford didn't sign as the 10th overall pick of Toronto two years ago after failing a physical, which teams are still curious about despite the mid-rotation stuff he's shown the last two years.Still, Kiley rates Bickford as a future 45+, and had ranked him as high as #5 earlier in the season. He noted additionally about his health issues with Toronto:
Teams have also said they want to see Bickford’s medical, despite his solid spring, because it’s widely believed that his deal two years ago with Toronto at 10th overall fell apart due to shoulder concerns.Baseball America in their mocks noted a bunch of info:
- The latest Phil Bickford news has included more than a failed drug test; it also has included rumblings of troubling medical information.
- Bickford may have issues, but he has bowling-ball sink to his fastball that would play at Coors field. His medical issues and drug test may open the door to a deal.
- JC of Southern Nevada’s Phil Bickford, who reportedly was throwing 90 percent fastballs for most of his starts this season but still racked up 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
- interest in power arms steers them to Phil Bickford, who had a ridiculous 17.2 strikeouts per nine innings against wood-bat junior-college competition.
... power arms. Bickford, the former first-rounder who transferred from Cal State Fullerton to be Draft-eligible this year, fits that description as someone who has been up to 97-98 mph as a reliever in the past, though he has the stuff to start.Here is Callis' analysis of the Giants selection:
Callis: A lot of discussion among clubs whether Bickford is a starter or reliever. He had his best success as a collegian as a reliever in the Cape Cod League last summer where the scouts rated him the top prospect. The thing you have to feel good about is the Giants certainly know how to develop pitchers, so if anyone can turn him into a starter, it's them.I also thought it would be interesting to see what they had to say the last time he was drafted, two years ago. Here is what MLB.com noted:
As the spring progressed, this California high school right-hander was turning heads with his size and stuff. He has the ideal pitching frame and great arm action. He's been up to as high as 96 with his fastball and it has some good sink to it. He throws both a slider and a changeup, though they aren't as consistent as his fastball. The breaking ball is the better of the two, but both have the chance to be at least Major League average pitches in the future. He's composed on the mound and is generally around the strike zone, though improved command will be needed at the next level. With his size, stuff and projectability, teams will surely be interested in allowing him to work on that in their organization.BA noted:
A righthander from Oaks Christian High in Westlake Village, Calif., Bickford’s stock rose along with the quality of his fastball this spring. After throwing 88-92 mph last summer, he worked from 90-96 mph as a high school senior while exhibiting tremendous life on the pitch and the ability to command it to both sides of the plate. He wowed scouts in his final start of the season, striking out 18 in seven innings (including the final 11 hitters he faced) five days before the draft.David Rawnsley of Perfect Game wrote in his SI article:
[Bickford] has a dominant fastball that reaches the upper 90s and that he throws for strikes, but his secondary pitches are still developing. If there is one thing the Tigers like, however, it is dominant fastballs.Giants too!
Perfect Games wrote a bunch of reports on Bickford over the past year or so. This noted where he was after leaving Fullerton:
Bickford’s showing this summer was the continuation of what was an impressive year for the 6-foot-4, 200-pound, righty. Bickford appeared in 20 games for the Titans in 2014, 10 of those starts, and blossomed as the season progressed. The righty went 6-3 with a 2.13 ERA in 76 innings, while striking out 74 and walking 13. Bickford earned Perfect Game Freshman All-American honors following the spring.
Scott Pickler, his summer coach ... had high praise for Bickford in our Summer Player of the Year feature, released last week.
“He was absolutely everything we had heard he was going to be,” Pickler said. “His velocity when he started wasn’t as high, but once he got into that closer role, he just reached back and started punching guys out. “He didn’t only come into games and do a great job of commanding the strike zone, he did so by staying down in the zone with his fastball,” he continued. “He had a confidence about him, and it was something that really resonated with the rest of our team.”
Bickford took the Cape Cod League by storm this summer. He tallied a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings, while also striking out 33 and walking just five batters. Bickford typically sat 90-93 with his fastball as a starting pitcher in the spring for the Titans, but rose to the occasion this summer out of the bullpen, sitting 93-97 with his fastball, consistently, while also touching 98 mph on the radar gun at times. Another big key for Bickford this summer was improving his secondary stuff, with his changeup and slider becoming better offerings.This shows how strong his control was with Fullerton, 74 K's vs. 13 BB's, and Cape Cod, 33 K's vs. 5 BB's, roughly six times the K's as walks.
This PG's article covers where he was in February:
Bickford’s fastball sat in the 90-92 mph range, touching 94 on some guns. Without question this pitch plays much better than the number typically would indicate. The four-seamer explodes on hitters due to his outstanding extension which we’ll touch on shortly.
He also threw an occasional two-seamer that touched 90 mph and mixed in a couple of changeups late in the outing. South Mountain’s lineup included just one lefthanded hitter so the two-seamer was a less favorable option.
The changeup was a different matter altogether. Bickford struggled mightily in the bullpen with the changeup and he and his pitching coach seemed to come to a consensus to scrap it for the day. There was very little feel for the pitch today and he had trouble locating it.
Bickford’s slider was very effective all day, mostly because his fastball was dominant from the get-go. The slider is an average pitch on its own, a little slurvy at times but most often a strike. It sat around 80 mph but didn’t have great depth.
From a results standpoint, Bickford punched out nine in 5 2/3 innings and didn’t give up a hit until the sixth. Of the three hits he did give up, only one was hit hard, but it was a three-run bomb off of the bat of Sebastian Zawada on a fastball up and in.
There is a lot to like with Bickford and it begins with his fastball and ends with his natural born talent to pitch. The frame is every bit of 6-foot-4 and he has the legs of someone 6-foot-8. One scout commented that the uber-athletic Bickford almost “prances off the mound.” The arm swing is short and the arm itself is lightning fast. It is an easy delivery with an outstanding combination of balance and explosion. All of this contributes to a special fastball, with the four-seamer well ahead of the two-seamer at this point in time.
Bickford’s fastball is naturally down in the zone with late life. He located in, out and up today with very little difficulty. Because the arm swing is so compact, his extension out in front is elite, thus the giddy-up, as the pitch virtually jumps into the strike zone. While the swings and misses were minimal today, he consistently locked hitters up with location and the electricity of his fastball.
The aforementioned disappointment from the scouting community was not in Phil Bickford the pitcher, as this is a special talent with an easy arm and live fastball. The challenge is that Bickford represents a very tricky draft profile.
Bickford’s fastball is an overwhelming pitch that could easily run him into the top half of the first round. However, matters are complicated when you factor in that he was the 10th overall pick of the 2013 draft and chose to not to sign, instead enrolling at Cal State Fullerton.
Yet if he is in fact a “one elite pitch” arm with serviceable secondary offerings, doesn’t that make him a reliever at the highest level? His mid- to upper-90s velocity from the Cape last summer did in fact come in short busts. However, Bickford’s fastball has the “wow” factor and it speaks to an arm talent that might lead one to believe that he could and should be able to develop a more well-rounded arsenal.
Bickford’s work ethic and aptitude will ultimately determine his big league future. For the scouting community, is the first half of the first round too steep a price to pay for a current reliever profile? Or do you see a special talent with an elite pitch who may have more in the tank?
However this turns out, Phil Bickford is worth seeing in person. The fastball is a special pitch that made me giggle at one point today. Witnessing elite natural talent like Bickford’s in person never gets old and reminds us why we love this great game so much.Wow, strong words: "natural born talent to pitch"; "uber-athletic"; "fastball is naturally down in the zone with late life"; "elite pitch"; "special talent with an easy arm and live fastball"; "overwhelming pitch"; "special pitch that made me giggle"; "elite natural talent". I'm starting to giggle!
PG's last report got a lot of interesting quotes from Bickford and about Bickford:
Despite the workmanlike performance of the sophomore, it was his 12 strikeouts of the 19 would-be hitters he faced that stood out. Bickford’s 90-plus mph fastball, in conjunction with his ever-improving slider, had the Bruins guessing, especially during a stretch that saw him sit down nine straight batters.
Only in the fifth inning did Salt Lake capture a rare run on the tall righty. Not that that would be an indication of his day, but that fifth frame would be his last work on the afternoon as he exited a 1-1 tie, leaving it up to his bullpen to pull out the victory.
“Today was a really good day. I like the results,” said Bickford after the game. “The slider, in the beginning, was a little off, but I found it. Just making sure to stay on top of it and throw it a lot with the fastball.”
Bickford has a changeup in his arsenal, along with a pair of fastballs and a slider, yet he decided not to go to it much in this outing.
“I’m really pleased how well the slider is coming along,” Bickford added. “There hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to use the changeup. We keep working on it. It’s one of the secondary pitches that I need to keep down in the zone and that’s really happening with the slider right now.
“I’m really just working on commanding both sides of the plate. Getting ahead in the counts, knowing what to throw next and just gaining confidence in my secondary stuff.”
Bickford, from Newbury Park, Calif., has been a top prospect since his prep days at Oaks Christian High School in Westlake Village. He’s always been a pitcher he said, but in the early days enjoyed hitting as an everyday first baseman.
“I actually got my first callup as a freshman to be a hitter,” Bickford recalled. “But it wasn’t long after that when my coach was like, ‘you’re just gonna pitch now.’ I was cool with that because I really loved pitching. It’s been a blessing to be able to work with and learn from the kind of players I always looked up to. I knew around then, yeah, this was something I could do.”
He was drafted in the first round by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2013, but went unsigned and decided to go to school and play ball at Cal State Fullerton. As a member of the Titans, the freshman went 6-3 in 10 starts and was third on the staff with 76 innings pitched. During his time at Fullerton, he continued to leave little doubt why he was worthy of the attention from the major leagues.
Imagine how happy the coaches at Southern Nevada were when word came early in the fall that the 2014 Perfect Game Summer Collegiate National Player of the Year was coming to school in Clark County.
“Right from day one, I just realized how much chemistry was on this team,” Bickford explained. “It’s a really cool thing when everybody gets along and has each other’s back and really just wants to win. From the coaches on down, we just want to win.”
That’s pretty humble talk from an athlete at the young age of 20 years old, who has found himself on the national baseball radar.
CSN Sports Information Director, Andrew Farrar is impressed with the maturity of the big righthander.
“He’s just the nicest kid,” Farrar gushed. “From the time he got here he’s been nothing short of a great teammate. (He) treats everybody politely and wants to be your friend. When we painted our fences before the season he was the first one out there with a paint brush.”
It must be quite an asset for Coyote head coach, Nick Garritano, to have such a nice young man in his rotation. One grounded enough to help paint the fences yet wicked enough to paint the corners with a 93 mph fastball.
“Phil pitched well today,” Garritano said. “Would have liked to gotten him a couple more runs, but that’s the way it goes for him sometimes. But, when he’s dominant, like he was today, we always have the chance to win.”
Winning is what Bickford says he wants to focus on right now. Not the path he’s taken to get to where he is today and not the next MLB draft where he will surely be a first round selection again. A lightning rod is a lightning rod, though, and Bickford has all the traits of becoming a pro.
With all the resources necessary at his fingertips, including the tools that project him as a major league reliever at least, it will be up to him to continue to grow as the PG No. 1 JUCO prospect in the country.
“Right now I’m just focused on a day at a time with this ball club,” Bickford said. “The draft is in the future and I really don’t let it cross my mind. Obviously, you think about it sometimes because it’s there, but it isn’t changing anything I’m doing here with this team. I mean it when I say it, I’m all about helping this team and getting an opportunity to win a ring.
“That’s what it’s all about right now.”Wow, a lot more interesting factoids. Is he another budding Bumgarner? He enjoyed being a hitting firstbaseman, this article noted, until they made him a pitcher full-time. Maybe he can work on that in the minors. Working to command both sides of the plate? Wowsa! He's got that in spades, with his great K/BB ratio. And he sounds like a nice kid.
Overall, I like the pick. I was meh when I had first heard the selection, while out shopping, but as I compiled the above information, I liked Bickford more and more, particularly after pulling the Perfect Game info. But that seems to be the pattern for me and Giants draft pick, they tend to pick guys out of the blue relative to what the industry is thinking, so I don't know too much about the pick beforehand. My spreadsheet showed some initial interest on my (and the mock's) part, then I stopped capturing notes on him as a possibility.
Most mocks had Bickford falling into the 20's or 30's, though most ranked him in the 20's, though one ranked him in the 40's. In almost all the mocks, he fell past us, and one had him falling to 33, past our second pick (that was Callis). Two had him picked before, BA's 4.0 and Sickel's. So basically the experts had no idea the Giants were interested in him, once again.
Once a Player Shows Talent, He Owns It
As I noted in my draft post, Barr seems to follow the rule from Baseball Forecaster, that once a player shows talent and ability, he owns that talent, and it becomes a matter of drawing that talent back out of the prospect by putting him in the right circumstances and developing him right. He has selected players who had ranked higher at some point previously, but due to some blemish on their history, they fall to the Giants and they pounce.
Lots of recent examples. Beede had a down junior season. Crawford was a Top 10 overall pre-season but his poor junior season dropped him to the Giants in the 4th round (in the Baggarly article, he noted that he probably would have not signed and try again in his senior year if it wasn't that the Giants drafted him). They also got Susac (hamate surgery) and Osich (health issues) who were expected to go higher.
Seems Like Pitchers We Got
Reading through all this, he seems to be a mix between Lincecum and Bumgarner, two fellow prior 10th picks of the draft. He has the body and build of Bumgarner, and ultra-control of pitches, but the uber-athleticism and extension, plus stuff, of Lincecum, and also possessing an elite pitch, like the two, only lacking the mid-90's heat that the two had when they joined the Giants, but which he had before entering college. He's even got Timmy's old flowing hair:
And reports on his velocity varies. Most of the main sites quoted above places his normal velocity as low 90's or roughly 90-92. In this newspaper report (which had the photo above) noted that:
The usual coterie of major league scouts pointed radar guns at him and clicked. Ninety-two mph consistently; then 93; then, in the top of the sixth when he was nearing the end of the line, 94.And the reporter also noted his "regular dude", humble personality that was noted above. That is definitely like Timmy.
Finding the Talent Within Him
Most reports note his reduced velocity versus high school, implying that he did not develop much in the past two years. But this newspaper report suggests that he can get his velocity higher at times. This inconsistency reminds me of Bumgarner one spring. If you'll recall, Bumgarner came in one spring, had reduced velocity, couldn't get it back up, then Dr. Tidrow made a house call, and Madison was back to his old dominant self.
I have to believe that the Giants believe that they can get that #10 pick in 2013 who had mid-90's heat back to form, which would in essence give them another #10 pick, where they happen to have had success finding players before, both Lincecum and Bumgarner. He will be 20 YO in a month, so even if it took them 4-5 years, he would still only be 24-25 YO when his talent comes to fruition.
Giants Love to Sign 'Em All
The history of the Giants under Sabean is that they don't draft anybody in the first 20 rounds who they are not serious about signing. They normally sign all prospects drafted in the first 10 rounds, and typically over 80% of them overall in the first 20 rounds. Plus, they normally sign them roughly for slot, or a little higher (Posey and Wheeler were the only ones they ever went very high over, other than draft and follows done long ago when that was allowed, and Ishikawa).
As I had noted in my pre-draft post, the Giants could probably easily get the bonus offer somewhere around and above the $2.5M range, without much trouble, but would have to jump through some hoops to get to $3.0M. $3.0M is around where what Toronto could have offered him in 2013 versus the $4.25M he was rumored to be asking for. Most quotes afterward noted that money was not the reason he was not signed, and the rumors, noted above, indicates that something from his physical turned the Blue Jays off, though in interviews, Phil makes it seem like he made the choice to not sign; the truth probably lies somewhere in-between. Still, whatever it was that caused resulted in no signing, he has been healthy the past two seasons, no health issues at all to indicate anything is amiss physically.
In any case, according to this interview before he was drafted by the Giants, signability should not be an issue:
Signability should be much easier this time around.
“My mindset is to go and get my big league career started,” Bickford told the Las Vegas Review-Journal before the draft. “I’m confident that’s going to happen."
“There were no regrets at all. It’s a part of life. It gave me two great years and a great summer. I don’t know if I have a right to say this, but I got a lot more mature on the field.”Good Pick, I Love Him
Overall, while I would have liked to see more velocity (mid-90's), there is a lot the Giants should like about him. It sounds like he does have the velocity, but just needs to learn his mechanics, like Bumgarner did, in order to throw that consistently and regularly. Tidrow would be able to help in that case. They probably like his good, sinking life to his pitches and they love pitchers with good "stuff". Plus he has a plus slider. And you don't normally select a reliever with a pick this high, but it does give a good fall-back should he falter in becoming a starting pitcher. And makeup is something the Giants love about players, both pre-Barr and especially with Barr. That last PG article made him sound like a good kid in general.
And the Giants do love pitchers with plus control. 166 strikeouts vs. 21 walks is excellent, almost an 8.0 K/BB ratio, and is a pattern that has been around since Bumgarner and Alderson were drafted, and continues with pitchers like Strickland, Okert, Law, Broadway in our system with plus control. Throw in natural sinking action, and you got a special pitcher with an elite fastball who strikes out a lot of batters while not walking many, and when the hitters do put it into action, entices a lot of grounders.
Looks like he just needs to work on his secondary pitches and to learn and master them. This is similar to what Bumgarner had to do, as Madison's Dad did not allow him to throw any breaking pitches or off-speed pitches until late in his high school career. For whatever reasons, he didn't learn much regarding secondary pitches while in college, but that is what professional coaches are for, the Giants are well versed in teaching them to their charges.
So I think that he's a good pick. Don't know if others, like Nikorak or Watson, would have been better, they all have a lot of good qualities, hence why they were in strong consideration to be drafted in the first round, but there is a lot to like about him. And I love that he's a lot like two of our best pitchers during our championship years, Bumgarner and Lincecum.
Hence why I stole Tidrow's quote about Bumgarner and applied it to Bickford: what's not to love about a high velocity pitcher (key word, not thrower), who has natural sink, big pitcher's body, and just needs some coaching to develop his other pitches, while having superlative command and control over his pitches? Plus he has a hitter's mentality that could bode well for another pitcher who can hit. And appears to be a good kid as well.