It’s a little bit hard to gauge prep right-hander Phil Bickford, who the Jays made the tenth overall selection in the draft tonight, based on some of the reports that are out there, seeing as his stock rose so high so quickly. He’s certainly a high-risk, high-reward pick as a flamethrowing high school arm with little in the way of a breaking ball.
In today’s piece at the Toronto Star, Brendan Kennedy wrote that “the right-hander has rocketed up mock draft charts with his strong play of late, including striking out 17 batters last weekend. He is considered a high-risk pick since his skills remain so raw and he has yet to develop a decent breaking ball. But he can already throw a fastball in the mid-90s and some scouts believe he’s just getting started.”
Keith Law, however, isn’t so sure:
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 7, 2013
“His lack of a breaking ball is a real concern,” Law writes in his scouting report at ESPN.com. “His curveball is well below-average, lacking depth and easily visible out of his hand, while his slider is flat thanks to his low three-quarters arm slot.”
More interestingly, as I noted in today’s Draft Primer post, Law said today in his final mock that he’s “heard one rumor they’d take Bickford and tell him to take less money or go to school,” after earlier noting Bickford had “put out such a huge bonus demand this week that some teams are scared off.”
It’s hard to know what to make of that, because we also know that last year the Jays were unfazed by the notion of taking guys with signability issues– particularly because of their strategy in rounds four through ten, which saw them take low-end college seniors with tiny bonus demands, which allowed them to pool extra money in order to ink deals with both Matt Smoral and Anthony Alford, who similarly scared teams off.
And it’s not like the Jays don’t have a decent record with taking prep right-handers who looked like a reach: they took Noah Syndergaard out of Legacy High School in Mansfield, Texas, with the 38th pick in 2010, though his name appeared on neither Keith Law’s top 100 draft prospects list, nor the top 200 produced by Baseball America.
It’s not all bad, either. Baseball Prospectus ranked Bickford much higher than Law, for example, putting him all the way up at 17th overall, and having a much better view of his secondary stuff. “He has big depth on his sweeping breaking ball at 78-80, and it is a swing and miss pitch, though he will need to learn to develop better feel for it to force hitters to swing on it at the next level,” they write.
So, rather obviously, we’ll have to wait and see who ends up being right– and it’s going to take years. Though, actually, we can see Bickford in action right away, in this YouTube clip of his full performance last Saturday (in 8 minutes) in California’s Division 4 high school championship game. His line, according to the clip’s description: 7 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 18 Ks.
Round Two: With their second pick, 47th overall, the Jays have taken Kentucky prep right-hander Clinton Hollon, who was 73rd on Keith Law’s board, and who gets a Jeremy Guthrie comp from MLB.com, as they note his stature (6’1), and explain that he, “while not the biggest guy in the world, has some serious arm strength. He can get his fastball up to the mid-90s with a decent breaking ball to go with it. He even shows some feel for a changeup, giving him the chance to have a full repertoire of at least Major League average pitches.”
Even more intriguingly, a year ago Jason Churchill of ESPN.com called Hollin the nation’s top high school junior arm, noting that despite his size and a delivery with some red flags, that he “has bumped 97 mph on the radar gun. And despite some red flags with his delivery, he has the best arm in the prep class of 2013.” Churchill adds that “he’s well built at 195 pounds and offers an upper-80s curveball, a mid-80s slider and a changeup. His slider may be his best shot at an out pitch at the next level.”
And perhaps crucially, jumping back to the MLB.com note, we see that, more than anything “he needed to show he was healthy this spring after leaving the East Coast Pro Showcase with forearm tendinitis and not pitching for the rest of the summer.” So… maybe the Jays think that he’s going to get back to where he was when he was the top prep arm? I could buy that.
Image via the Los Angeles Times.