Monday, June 10, 2013

Big On Bickford ?


   With the 10th pick in last week's MLB Entry Draft, the Blue Jays went off the board slightly in selecting California high school righthander Phil Bickford. The fireballing hurler, who struck out 18 in his final high school game on the Saturday before the draft, caught a heavy dose of helium, and rose rapidly in the rankings.  While he was a bit off of our radar (Baseball America had him ranked at 20th), Bickford fits the Jays recent draft history model - a power high school arm, adding to the stockpile of arms the club has at the lower levels.
   Jays' director of amateur scouting Brian Parker told Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star that Bickford has one of the best fastballs in the draft. Some scouts question Bickford's secondary pitches, suggesting that his low 3/4 arm slot causes his breaking pitches to flatten.  Bickford has good command of his fastball, however - a quality that the organization covets.
  The assigned slot for the 10th pick in the draft is $2.9 million.  Rumour has it that Bickford's asking price is just over $4 million, and if the two sides can't come to an agreement, Bickford has committed to Cal State Fullerton.
   So, there's a bit of a risk in taking Bickford, and even though the Jays will get a compensation pick if they don't sign him (like they did when they failed to sign Tyler Beede two years ago), he's a bit of a curious pick.  Here are some possible reasons why they took him:

1.  The players they really liked (Trey Ball, Austin Meadows) were taken before him, and they
didn't like some of the position players (Reese McGuire, Hunter Renfroe) they were linked to.
So when in doubt, pick a pitcher.  Unlike a position player, you can quantify what a pitcher does
(ie., speed of a fastball, differential between fastball and change, depth of breaking pitches, control) better than you can a hitter.. Even better if it's a high school pitcher with command and a mid 90s fastball.
2.  They didn't like the quality of any of the supposed top ranked players in the draft, so if Bickford
fails to sign, they get a 2nd first round pick next year.
3.  They do like him, but not that much, and have no plans to go very much over slot to get him (if Bickford fails to sign and attends school, he won't be draft eligible until the end of his junior year).
rated high school players whose stock fell due to college committments out of that decision.
4.  Maybe they actually liked Bickford.  He would join Daniel Norris, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Sanchez,
Chase DeJong, and Tyler Gonzales in the Jays' stable of young power arms. They will have to go over slot by quite a bit to get him, and are prepared to do so.

   The Jays and Bickford have until July 12th to reach a deal.

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