8:51pm: In a full article, Rogers provides a bit more detail of the situation, noting that Bickford also dominated the Cape Cod League this summer and was named Perfect Game Summer Player of the Year. Rogers notes that he showed a much-improved changeup and slider over the summer and would rather test the waters of the MLB draft now than wait two more years by remaining at Cal State Fullerton.
7:23pm: Aaron Fitt of Baseball America hears that junior college is more likely for Bickford (Twitter link). Either way, this appears to be a clear indicator that Bickford is focused on entering next year’s draft and beginning his pro career.
7:00pm: Former first-round pick Phil Bickford, who elected not to sign with the Blue Jays as the No. 10 overall pick in the 2013 draft, will not return to Cal State Fullerton for his sophomore season and is strongly considering pitching in independent ball, according to Kendall Rogers of PerfectGameUSA.com (Twitter links). Such a move would allow Bickford to be eligible for the 2015 draft. Bickford could consider transferring to a junior college as well, which would also allow him to file for next year’s draft.
Now 19 years old (he will turn 20 next July), Bickford did little to harm his draft stock in what looks to be his lone year with the Titans. He fired 76 innings and turned in a 2.13 ERA with a 74-to-13 K/BB ratio. Bickford shot up draft boards heading into the 2013 draft. ESPN’s Keith Law noted at the time of the draft that he sat 90-93 mph with his fastball and touched 96 with a great pitcher’s frame, but his lack of a breaking ball was a red flag.
Bickford reportedly turned down more than $2MM from the Blue Jays, who received the No. 11 pick in this year’s draft as compensation for failing to sign him. Toronto selected Tommy John inflicted right-hander Jeff Hoffman and Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost with the No. 9 and 11 picks in this year’s first round.