Brewers righty Phil Bickford has been hit with a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse for the second time, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times tweets. Bickford reportedly tested positive for marijuana before being drafted in 2015. Players on 40-man rosters are not at risk of suspension for marijuana use, but Bickford is not on Milwaukee’s big-league roster.
Bickford, 21, has long been seen as a high-quality pitching prospect. He has maintained double-digit strikeout-per-nine tallies throughout his minor league career since heading to the Giants with the 18th overall selection. (Bickford was also previously taken tenth overall by the Blue Jays in 2013, but did not sign at the time.)
The suspension won’t have an impact on Milwaukee’s immediate plans, as Bickford has yet to reach the upper minors. But it will have at least some impact on his developmental timeline, which certainly rates as a disappointment for the organization. The Brewers added Bickford from the Giants along with catcher Andrew Susac in the trade that sent lefty Will Smith to San Francisco at the trade deadline.
Bickford delivers a big four-seam fastball, diving two-seamer, promising slider, and developing change, MLB.com’s prospect team explained in ranking him the fifth-best talent on the Brewers farm. There are still some who think he’ll end up in a major league pen, but regardless the expectation remains that he’ll make an impact. Last year, working at the Class A and High-A level, Bickford threw 120 innings of 2.92 ERA ball with 10.1 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9.