Height/Weight: 6'4'' 185 lbs.
DOB: (Couldn't find his age anywhere. If anyone knows, help me out!)
You'll be hard-pressed to find a more projectable arm in this draft than Oaks Christian's Phil Bickford. Bickford has shot up draft rankings due to some serious addition of velocity to his fastball. It sat in the low 90s for much of high school.
Until this spring...when it did this.
See the date on the Kendall Rogers tweet? August 9. Bickford has added 7-9 miles per hour on his fastball in the span of five months. It's pretty incredible change, and Bickford mentioned in an LA Times article that he increased his strength and body shape.The fastball is his most advanced pitch and the one that has put him in the spotlight. It has some sink on it as well. A hard fastball that sinks would be pretty tough to hit...but that's just me.
Bickford also throws a slider and changeup, which are developing. The slider is the better pitch, but each of them will need to show improvement for him to have an impact at the major league level. The change is in the mid 80s, which is a pretty fast changeup. Bickford also shows the production to back up his projectable stuff. In his junior year at Oaks, he struck out 107 hitters in 72.1 innings and only walked 12, and he's increased his strikeout total to 120 in 2013. Bickford's control is also very good, something you don't always see in a high school pitcher.
Bickford reminds me a lot of Astros' 2010 draftee Michael Foltynewicz. They have almost identical frames, with Folty a little heavier, but at the same 6'4'' height. Their fastball velocities are the same, and Folty also throws a change-up and breaking ball, though both of those pitches were a little more advanced in 2010 than Bickford's are now. Their delivery is also similar, as you'll be able to see in the video section if you scroll down. It's pretty uncanny actually, and if Bickford follows roughly the same path that Foltynewicz has so far in his professional career, the team that drafts him should be pretty happy.
Rock-bottom for Bickford would be an inability to develop any of his secondary pitches, which would probably keep him out of the majors. However, his fastball velocity could make him attractive a hard-throwing reliever.
Number two or three starter. I don't see ace potential in Bickford quite yet, as his secondary pitches don't do enough for me right now, and he only throws three total pitches. However, that could change with a good set of pitching coaches and instruction once he hits the professional level.
Projected Draft Round
Bickford could go as high as the middle of the first round, with a team like the Dodgers taking him. He would be a good, high-upside pick for their farm system, and a local guy to boot. He won't fall past the supplemental round. Bickford is somewhat of a risky pick because he's just been noticed on the national draft circuit and being discussed as a high draft choice this spring. However, he plays some good competition in Southern California at Harvard-Westlake.
Will He Sign?
There's not much reason not to sign if he's picked in the first round, as whichever team takes him will pay him due bonus and he doesn't have any signability concerns. If he goes in the supplemental, I could envision him considering college ball, as he could develop into a dominant college pitcher that warrants a top ten selection in 2016. I don't see that happening though. Bickford is committed to Cal-State Fullerton.
PHIL BICKFORD PROSPECT VIDEO, RHP, OAKS CHRISTIAN HIGH SCHOOL (via Steve Fiorindo)
Mike Foltynewicz video for comparison
Mike Foltynewicz (10-25-2009) Jupiter, FL (via CamdenDepot)