2015 Amateur Draft Rumors

Phil Bickford To Pitch For Southern Nevada

Former Blue Jays top draft pick Phil Bickford will pitch for the College of Southern Nevada this season, MLB.com’s Jim Callis reports. The move to a two-year college will officially make Bickford eligible for next year’s draft. CSN is already known in baseball circles for being the school attended by 2010 top overall pick Bryce Harper.

The Jays took Bickford tenth overall out of high school in 2013, but the two sides couldn’t agree to a deal, and Bickford headed to Cal State Fullerton. His stock improved this summer after showing great stuff in the Cape Cod League, and he currently appears likely to go even higher than tenth overall next time he’s draft eligible — Callis notes that Bickford could be a candidate to go first overall. Had Bickford gone back to Cal State Fullerton, he would not have been eligible for the draft until 2016.

He had the best arm in the league,” says John Schiffner, an opposing Cape Cod manager. “He threw one of our guys a slider in a big situation, and three kids’ knees buckled in our dugout. And that’s not even his best pitch, because we saw 97 mph.”


Quick Hits: Velocity, Clark, 2015 Draft, Astros, Pirates

The introduction and development of the radar gun has had a profound effect on baseball, Danny Knobler explores in a piece for Bleacher Report. Pitching speed has always been recognized as a key tool, but its increasing standardization in measurement and emphasis in amateur scouting has played an undeniable role in the velocity explosion at all levels. Speed readings deliver valuable information and come with some downsides, but for better or worse the gun’s influence will continue. Here are a few more interesting recent articles from around the web:

  • Matt Clark‘s decision to gamble a bit and opt out of his minor league deal with the Mets has paid huge dividends for the 27-year-old journeyman, writes Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now with the Brewers, Clark says he sensed that there was little chance he’d be promoted and elected free agency in June. Bob Skube, Milwaukee’s Triple-A hitting coach, was Clark’s hitting coach with the Padres’ Triple-A affiliate at one point and made a pitch for the organization to pursue him when Nashville first baseman Hunter Morris broke his arm. Clark, who spent last season in Japan and had never cracked a big league roster, hit his way to a September callup and has homered in two straight games.
  • Prospect watchers have begun to turn their attention to the 2015 amateur draft, so let’s take a look at the latest. Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs provides a “way-too-early” list of the top 51 prospects, along with some other names to watch. Sitting atop the ranking is high school shortstop and FSU commit Brendan Rogers, with last year’s first overall choice — the unsigned and possibly JuCo-bound Brady Aiken — right behind him.
  • Looking back at recent draft choices, Baseball America’s John Manuel writes that the Astros will need to go to work developing Mark Appel and the recently-acquired Colin Moran to avoid a lot of hard questions about the decision to pass on Kris Bryant last year. Given Moran’s skillset — hard work, polished approach, and quick hands, but not the power and athleticism of Bryant — his best-case scenario might be to join the trajectory of Kyle Seager, says Manuel.
  • The Pirates have enjoyed a distinctive advantage this year in losing few player days to the DL, writes Ben Lindbergh of Grantland. Manager Clint Hurdle praised the team’s strength and conditioning staff, though he admitted he wasn’t sure that there was any one thing the Pirates are doing better than rival clubs. Still, players such as Chris Stewart, Neil Walker and Russell Martin all praised strength and conditioning coach Brendon Huttman. GM Neal Huntington wouldn’t comment on any specific tactics that might be ahead of the curve, stating, “I’d prefer to leave that behind the curtain.”
  • Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports examines the journey of former Arizona State and Notre Dame head coach Pat Murphy, who has transitioned to managing the Padres’ Triple-A club after a controversial exit to his NCAA career. Murphy’s intensity is said to be toned down, and Brown spoke with numerous players who lauded Murphy as one of the best managers they’ve ever had. Veteran reliever Blaine Boyer ranked Murphy alongside Bobby Cox, Tony La Russa and Bud Black. Brown, like many of Murphy’s players, is of the opinion that the 55-year-old Murphy could eventually be a big league manager.

Phil Bickford Leaving Cal State Fullerton, Eyeing 2015 Draft

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.



Quick Hits: Draft, Astros, Lester, Souza

Since next year’s amateur draft will be the 50th June draft, Baseball America’s John Manuel thinks MLB should use the milestone to make changes to the draft’s structure.  Manuel’s suggestions include moving the draft to All-Star week, shortening it to 20 rounds and implementing a standardized pre-draft physical for every player that would help avoid another Brady Aiken situation.  Testing would take place during “a medical combine” that would get official gauges on other measurable physical skills and baseball abilities.

Here are some notes from around the sport…

  • The Astros will have a hard time finding 40-man roster spots for all of their promising Rule 5 draft-eligible prospects, Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper writes.  One interesting facet of the Jarred Cosart trade with the Marlins, Cooper notes, was that Houston freed up two extra 40-man roster spaces for use this winter.
  • The perception that Jon Lester and the Red Sox have some sort of tacit agreement that the southpaw will re-sign with the team this winter is “amusing,” ESPN’s Buster Olney writes in his latest Insider-only column.  Such an agreement would require a lot of trust between both sides, and after the way the Sox approached negotiations with their former ace, “the Lester-Red Sox relationship degraded into a business transaction.”  This doesn’t necessarily mean Lester won’t re-sign, Olney notes, just that Boston will need to greatly increase their contract offer in the offseason.
  • Also from Olney’s column, he lists nine starters who the Red Sox could pursue in trades this winter since the free agent pitching options (and/or prices) may not be to Boston’s liking.
  • When the Nationals were trying to acquire a reliever before the deadline, several teams asked for outfield Steven Souza in return, Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports.  Souza, who received his second big league call-up today, has posted huge numbers in each of his last three minor league seasons, including a .354/.435/.601 slash line with 18 homers and 24 steals (of 31 chances) in 386 PA for Triple-A Syracuse this year.

2015 Competitive Balance Lottery Results

The Competitive Balance Lottery for the 2015 MLB Draft took place this afternoon. Twelve competitive balance picks are awarded, with the first six taking place after the first round’s conclusion and the next six taking place following conclusion of the second round. Here are the results, per MLB.com (Twitter links)…

Competitive Balance Round A

  1. Marlins
  2. Rockies
  3. Cardinals
  4. Brewers
  5. Padres
  6. Indians

Competitive Balance Round B

  1. Reds
  2. Athletics
  3. Mariners
  4. Twins
  5. Orioles
  6. Diamondbacks

As MLB.com’s Jim Callis explained earlier in the week, teams that have one of the 10 smallest markets or one of the 10 smallest revenue pools are eligible to receive a compensatory pick between the first and second rounds (Round A) or between the second and third rounds (Round B).

The A’s, Diamondbacks, Indians, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Pirates, Rays, Reds, Rockies and Royals were eligible for Comp Round A picks. The teams that didn’t receive an extra pick from that pool were placed into a second pool that also included the Mariners and Twins to determine which would receive a Comp Round B selection. These picks are eligible to be traded any time during the regular season, right up until 5pm ET on the day of next year’s draft.


Top 11 Picks Will Be Protected In 2015 Draft

The Astros’ failure to sign Brady Aiken resulted in the team receiving a compensation pick (No. 2 overall) in the 2015 draft, and while we’ve seen problems caused by comp picks in the Top 10 under the new CBA (specifically heading into the 2013 season), MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes reports that a change has been made to the protected pick structuring (Twitter links). Previously, the CBA had called for the “Top 10″ picks to be protected, but changes have been made that will protect the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records, regardless of whether or not comp picks are inserted into the first 10 selections.

This very situation may have cost the Mets a chance to sign Michael Bourn in the 2012-13 offseason (an outcome that, in hindsight, may have been beneficial to New York). The Mets finished the 2012 campaign with the 10th-worst record in baseball, but their No. 10 pick was pushed back to No. 11 due to the Pirates’ inability to reach agreement with 2012′s No. 8 overall pick — Mark Appel (who was drafted 1-1 by Houston the following season).

The Mets were weighing an appeal to the commissioner’s office that would have allowed them to sign Bourn and surrender a second-round pick, as Bourn had turned down a qualifying offer from the Braves and was subsequently linked to draft pick compensation. Before any resolution of the matter could ever be hammered out, the Indians made a four-year, $48MM offer that Bourn accepted. It’s not clear if that scenario prompted the change, but it’s logical to speculate that the Bourn situation could have sparked the change.

Coincidentally, the Mets currently have the 10th-worst record in baseball once again, though obviously that’s subject to change over the final two-plus months of the season. However, regardless of which team ends up having their pick pushed back from No. 10 to No. 11 to accommodate the Astros’ new selection, that pick will remain protected. That team, therefore, would only have to surrender a second-round pick in  order to sign a free agent that turns down a qualifying offer.

This will mark the second consecutive year that the Top 11 picks are protected in the draft, although the reasoning behind the protection of this year’s No. 11 pick was different. The Blue Jays received the No. 11 pick as compensation for failing to sign 2013 No. 10 overall pick Phil Bickford, and compensation picks, by definition, are protected under the CBA.