Phil Bickford, a former first-round pick projected to go very early in the 2015 First-Year Player Draft, will attend the Community College of Southern Nevada next spring, according to a source familiar with the situation.
After starring in the Cape Cod League this summer, Bickford left Cal State Fullerton after one season to make himself eligible for next year's Draft. Had he returned to the Titans, he would have had to wait until after his junior season in 2016 to turn pro.
Bickford showed an explosive 90-96 mph fastball as a senior at Oaks Christian School in Westlake Village, Calif., which got him selected 10th overall in the 2013 Draft by the Blue Jays. For reasons that have never been made clear, he didn't sign with Toronto. As a Cal State Fullerton freshman this spring, Bickford went 6-3, with a 2.13 ERA with 74 strikeouts in 76 innings over 20 games (10 starts), but he pitched with more of an average fastball.
Bickford reclaimed his stuff on Cape Cod this summer and scouts voted him the winner of the Robert A. McNeese Award as the prestigious summer league's top prospect. (He ranked No. 2 on MLBPipeline.com's Cape Cod Top 30 Prospects list.) Pitching in relief for the league champion Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, he worked at 93-98 mph and allowed runs in just two of his 17 appearances while fanning 44 in 27 2/3 innings.
"He had the best arm in the league," Chatham manager John Schiffner said. "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."
An athletic 6-foot-5, 208-pounder, Bickford flashes an above-average slider and throws strikes. Though his slider and changeup still need development, he profiles as a starting pitcher. Given that the 2015 Draft crop is thinner than usual at the top, Bickford has a good chance to go higher than he did in 2013, and he could be in the mix for the top overall selection.
Based in Henderson, Nev., CCSN started its baseball program in 2000 and won the Junior College World Series in '03. The Coyotes' most famous baseball alumnus is Bryce Harper, who hit 31 homers at CCSN in 2010 in what would have been his junior season in high school. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft by the Nationals, Harper is one of six Coyotes who have reached the big leagues.
Jim Callis is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, Callis' Corner. Follow @jimcallisMLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.