San Francisco Giants:Prospect Watch-Phil Bickford


The ability to find good arms in the draft is important to any franchise. San Francisco Giants fans should be excited, because there could be a few on their way in the upcoming years. One of those on the radar is Phil Bickford.

In the 2013 draft, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Phil Bickford as the 10th pick out of Oaks Christian High School in Westlake, California. He was dominant his senior year, going 12-1 with a 0.83 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 84 2/3 innings. He struck out 18 in the Division IV championship game, to finish his career.

Unfortunately for the Blue Jays, Bickford decided to go to Cal State Fullerton instead, and appeared in 20 games as a freshman. He ended up with a 6-3 record in 10 starts with a 2.13 ERA, striking out 74 in 76 innings.

He then transferred to the College of Southern Nevada, located in Henderson, NV. This is the same school that Bryce Harper attended, and is a hotbed for talent.

Bickford went 9-1 with a 1.45 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 16 starts. He threw one complete game, and had two games where he struck out 15. After that impressive season, he was selected 18th in the 2015 draft by the Giants. And they were very fortunate that he was there.

Kind of odd, really. A pitcher slides in the draft after showing that he can do the job at a higher level than high school. But the teams picking before the Giants might have had questions about signability. So the Giants got lucky.

They were able to sign Bickford for just under $2.5 million, which was the projected bonus of that pick, so they didn’t overpay.

Bickford was sent to the Arizona Fall League after signing. He started 10 games (0-1 record), but only pitched an average of 2 innings in each of them. But he had a 2.01 ERA and 32 strikeouts, giving up only 5 runs and 13 hits. His arm and physical makeup could be a comparable to Matt Cain.

Cain went to the Fall League after he was drafted 25th overall in 2002. He was out of high school, but also known for his ability to get outs via strikeout. He too went 0-1 in his short season there (8 games, 7 starts, 19.1 innings). He had 20 strikeouts, but a much higher ERA at 3.72.

Cain was 17 and Bickford is 19, so coming out of high school had to be overwhelming for Cain at that time. Bickford has already been exposed to being away from home while attending college in Nevada. So there shouldn’t be as much of an adjustment.

Both pitchers have similar builds with Bickford (6’5″ and 205 lbs) taller but lighter than Cain is now (6’3″ 230 lbs). But Bickford is likely to gain more weight as he gains muscle in the programs that the team will give him.

According to’s top 30 list, Bickford is already ranked 3rd and projected to see time with the big club in 2018.

This projection seems like a good one. But with a strong start to the upcoming season, which he is likely to start in Low-A Norwich, he could move up through the system quickly. Tyler Beede, the 2014 1st-rounder (more on him in another Prospect Watch) was pitching in Double-A Richmond by the end of last season. And his strikeout rate per nine inning wasn’t as high as Bickford’s in the AFL (12.9-11.9 per nine innings).

The only thing left for the kid is to continue to work hard and follow the tutelage of the coaches that he has within the organization. His projections look fantastic, as long as he continues to develop his other pitches. He is known to have an amazing sinker, but it is inconsistent. His fastball sits in the 88-94 range, so he needs to develop a quality changeup to compete at the next level.

With Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner having experienced the emergence of Cain, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and all of those bullpen arms, they understand what they need to do to maximize the talent that is there.

And the lure of pitching to a future Hall of Fame catcher in Buster Posey can’t hurt either.

Next: A Look At April

Now it is up to the player to put in the necessary work to achieve what should be in his bright future, throwing a meaningful pitch in a major league game.