When the Toronto Blue Jays selected Phil Bickford with the No. 10 overall pick, the assumption was that a deal was already in place with the prep right-hander. But we learned on Friday evening that clearly wasn’t the case, as both sides were unable to reach an agreement before the 5 p.m. ET signing deadline. He is the only first-rounder not to sign this year.
Bickford had as much helium as any player headed into the draft.
At 6’4”, 195 pounds, the right-hander has the type of projectable frame that makes scouts drool. Working from a three-quarters slot with fluid arm action, Bickford will sit in the low 90s with his fastball, and can reach back for 95 to 96 as needed. While he’s already shown a distinct feel for spotting it to both sides of the plate, the pitch stands to improve through the addition of some downhill plane.
Due to the dominance of his fastball at the high school level, Bickford’s secondary offerings are noticeably less advanced. Though it has some bite, the right-hander struggles to consistently get on top of his slider, and he also throws a very raw changeup that will need to be developed as a professional.
With a commitment to Cal State Fullerton to fall back on, Bickford was asking for $4.25 million headed into the draft.
And with that in mind, the Blue Jays drafted strategically under the assumption he’d be signable and ultimately saved roughly $1.7 million elsewhere within the first 10 rounds. Between the assigned slot value for the No. 10 pick ($2,921,400) and saved money, Toronto could have offered him $5,014,830 without exceeding its bonus pool.
The Blue Jays focused their draft around landing Bickford in the first round, so not signing the right-hander is a major disappointment. However, it did free up the last-minute spending money used to sign LHP Jake Brentz (11th round) and 1B Rowdy Tellez (30th round) to over-slot deals shortly before the deadline. Plus, Toronto will now receive the No. 11 overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation.