The official draft signing deadline came and went last Friday and first round pick (10th overall), Phil Bickford is not a Blue Jay. Bickford, 17, has opted to pitch for Cal State Fullerton. The Jays will get the 11th overall pick in the 2014 draft as compensation for not signing Bickford because they offered him more than 40% of the recommended slot value ($2.9 million). The amount the Jays offered has not been disclosed.
The Jays did, however, sign 11th-round pick Jake Brentz and 30th-round pick Rowdy Tellez well over slot value (slot value for the 10th round and later is $100,000 across the board), using some of the savings left over after not signing Bickford.
Brentz, a lefty pitcher, signed for $700,000. He ranked 80th in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects and throws an upper ’90s fastball. Although it has been noted by scouts that his curveball needs a lot of work.
Tellez, a lefty power bat, is 6’5″, 230lbs. He signed for $850,000 – a recorded setting amount under the new collective bargaining agreement. Tellez ranked 59th in Baseball America’s top 500 draft prospects. Although Tellez has spent his amateur career in the OF, scouts see him as a 1B.
Signing Bickford hurts, but with the rules under the CBA and the fact the Jays will get the 11th overall pick next year, it’s not all bad news.
Yesterday, GM Alex Anthopoulos finally came out and said it – The Blue Jays don’t expect to sign their first round pick (10th overall), Phil Bickford.
Bickford’s recommended slot value is approximately $2.9 million. The Jays have been able to save money by signing other draft picks under slot, so it doesn’t appear that money is the issue. The media is speculating that the Jays might have discovered something when Bickford underwent a physical that now make them reluctant to sign Bickford for the dollars it will take to pry him away from attending Cal State Fullerton next year. MLB teams do not have access to players medical records prior to the draft.
Bickford is a 17-year-old right-hander who finished his senior year in high school with a 1.72 ERA, while allowing 44 hits and recording 159 strikeouts in 99.1 innings.
The Jays have until this evening to sign Bickford. If they don’t, which is the likely scenario, the Jays will receive a compensation pick in the 2014 draft if they offered a minimum 40% of slot value. Anthopoulos has stated publicly that the Jays will indeed receive a compensation pick if Bickford chooses not to sign.
It’s discouraging that the Jays won’t land their top pick for the second time in three years (2011 – Tyler Beede). But at least they will get a compensation pick and I suppose we should give them credit for aggressively pursuing the youngster heralded as having the best highschool arm in the draft.
The Blue Jays continue to be the most successful club at signing its draftees below slot value. It appears the “signability” issues that dropped the Jays #1 pick, Phil Bickford to #10 overall might not be an issue anymore. It has been reported that Bickford’s family wants him to receive a minimum of $3 million – if not he would enter college and play on his full ride with Cal State Fullerton. The recommended slot value for the #10 overall pick is $2,921,400 and the Jays had a total of $6,398,200 to spend in this year’s Draft (ranks 17th in the MLB).
The Jays recently signed 2nd round pick, Clinton Hollon for $467,000 – about 40% below the slot value of $1,168,000 for the #47 overall pick. Hollon was slated to pitch in college for Kentucky this year if he didn’t sign. But during a physical, there appeared to be an issue with Hollon’s ulnar collateral ligament (the ligament that is replaced with a procedure known as “Tommy John Surgery”). Hollon, therefore, wanted to secure some cash instead of risking having his value drop due to injury in a 2014 college season. Hollon has previously thrown as hard as 95 mph and is known for his sharp slider. It remains to be seen what happens with his elbow, but since all young pitchers risk injury on the long climb to the MLB level and Tommy John surgery is quite common, this seems like a low risk, money saving signing.
The Blue Jays have also just signed 6th round pick, Matt Boyd for $75,000 – much less than his slot value of $250,000. Boyd, a left-hander, has pitched as both a reliever and a starter for Oregon State. While the Jays will probably let Boyd start until he proves unsuccessful, he projects as a low-angle lefty reliever (think Aaron Loup).
The Jays have now saved a MLB leading $1.8 million against their bonus pool which will no doubt aid the signing of Bickford. Bickford, you’ll remember, has the ability to hit 97 mph with his fastball. He also mixes in a slider and change-up. If the Jays are able to convince him to forego college and sign, they will do what many other MLB clubs thought couldn’t be done and possibly get a steal with the #10 overall pick. Bickford was widely considered the top highschool arm in the Draft, but also indicated he was leaning towards pitching at least one season for Cal State.
In case some of you are wondering who the Blue Jays drafting in the 2013 amateur draft, below is a short review of the prospects. We will have to see who signs.
First round pick – Phil Bickford (RHP). Bickford is a hard-throwing, right-handed senior from Oaks Christian High School (Calif.). He has the ability to hit 97 mph with his fastball while also using a changeup and slider in his repertoire. The 17-year-old Bickford has a commitment to Cal State Fullerton and could be a relatively tough player to sign. The recommended slot value for the No. 10 pick is $2,921,400, and the club has a total of $6,398,200 to spend in this year’s Draft, which ranks 17th in the Major Leagues. It remains to be seen whether the Jays will be able to sign Bickford, but they appear optimistic.
Second round pick – Clinton Hollon (RHP). Hollon is a senior from Woodford County High School (Ky.) and was taken with the 47th overall selection of the Draft. He has the ability to reach mid-90s on his fastball while also possessing a power curveball, slider and changeup. The 6-foot-1, 195-pounder was one of the most hyped pitching prospects in the game a year ago until a right arm injury temporarily derailed his lofty expectations. As a junior, Hollon experienced tendinitis in his right forearm after leaving the East Coast Pro Showcase and was eventually shut down for the year. He returned this spring and was throwing well, which allowed him to climb up the Draft board. Hollon was ranked the 86th-best prospect in the Draft, according to MLB.com. He went 9-1 with a 0.61 ERA in 10 starts as a senior this season while striking out 87 batters in 57 innings and also being a 2013 Rawlings First Team All-American. Hollon has a commitment to the University of Kentucky so we’ll see if the Jays can get him signed.
Third round pick – Patrick Murphy (RHP). Murphy is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound senior who is still recovering from Tommy John surgery performed last year. The 17-year-old prospect was one of the top-ranked players in the state of Arizona in 2012 before being sidelined with a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament in late April.
Fourth round pick – Evan Smith (LHP). Toronto chose 6-foot-5 left-hander Evan Smith from Mary G. Montgomery High School in Semmes, Ala. The 17-year-old senior topped out with a 93-mph fastball and an 80-mph curveball at the 2013 18U WWBA Memorial Day Classic in Fort Myers, Fla. Smith was among the best high school students in the Southeast United States, and was named to the 2013 Southeast All-Region first team.
Fifth round pick – Daniel Lietz (LHP). The 6-foot-2, 19-year-old southpaw went undrafted out of high school in 2012, but spent this past year with Heartland Community College in Illinois, where he showed a sharp increase in his fastball. Lietz’s fastball went from the mid 80s to the upper 80s/low 90s after spending the winter in the weight room. His fastball is complemented by two potential Major League pitches, a slider and changeup, and Lietz also throws a splitter and a curveball. In eight appearances with Heartland, Lietz started eight games, completing seven of them (with two shutouts), and striking out 68 in 74.1 innings.
Sixth round pick – Matt Boyd (LHP). Boyd spent his first three years at Oregon State as a reliever, but transitioned to a starter for the first time as a senior this spring after not signing with the Cincinnati Reds, who took him in the 2012 Draft. As a starter, he’s shown the ability to mix four pitches well, all of which could be Major League average as he develops them. Along with logging double-digit victories this spring, Boyd led the Beavers during the regular season in innings pitched, strikeouts and complete games. Big, strong and durable, Boyd throws his fastball, curve, slider and changeup around the plate consistently and varies his arm slot to give hitters different looks. Boyd could remain a starter at the next level, though his Draft selection comes with the insurance of knowing that he also had success as a lower-angle lefty reliever in the past.
Seventh round pick – Conner Greene (RHP). Greene, 18, pitched for Santa Monica High School in 2013. The 170-pound righty has great downward plane on his fastball, something that could be a plus pitch as he fills out. He also sports a curveball and splitter, although he’ll need better command with all three of his pitches to have any success at the big league level. That didn’t stop him from dominating high school students in 2013, as Greene had a 1.68 ERA with 76 strikeouts in 50 innings. Greene will play for College of Southern Nevada if he doesn’t sign with the Blue Jays, but turning professional seems more likely.
Eighth round pick – Kendall Graveman (RHP). Graveman, a senior at Mississippi State, was previously selected in the 36th round by the Marlins in 2012, but didn’t sign to have one more opportunity to play in the College World Series. The 6-foot-2 right-hander has an upper-80s fastball with heavy sinking action. He also has a solid changeup and a below-average curveball in his repertoire, and has good command of all his pitches. As a starter, Graveman had a 2.94 ERA with three complete games, one shutout and 62 strikeouts in 98 innings in his senior year while serving as the team’s co-captain. Graveman threw 294.1 innings in his four years at Mississippi State, and was easily the most experienced member of the MSU pitching corps.
Ninth round pick – Chad Girodo (LHP). Girodo is a 6-foot-1 veteran southpaw reliever who appeared in 33 games with MSU in 2013. The lefty went 7-1 with a 1.10 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP and 53 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. Girodo has spent all four years as a reliever in college, only making five spot starts throughout his collegiate career. This past season saw a completely different pitcher step on the mound than in the previous three years, as Girodo’s ERA was 4.5 runs better than his previous best season.
Tenth round pick – Garrett Custons (C). After selecting nine consecutive pitchers, Toronto ended Day 2 of the Draft by selecting catcher Garrett Custons of the United States Air Force in Colorado. Custons is a two-time All-Mountain West catcher who is solid on both sides of the ball. This season, the 22-year-old has hit .353, with .441 on-base percentage, 22 doubles, a home run and 25 RBIs in 53 games. Defensively, he has thrown out 20 of 37 would-be basestealers. Custons is a senior, originally from Sarasota, Fla., and was one of 15 semifinalists for the 2013 Johnny Bench Award, given to the top Division 1 collegiate catcher.
Bottom line – The Jays took 9 pitchers in the first 9 rounds, most of which were young high-schoolers that are tall with power arms. This is a smart way to do a draft. Pitching is everything and as seen with this past offseason, young pitching prospects can be used in trades to net position players when the time comes. Looks like the Jays wanted to restock the cupboards with talented young arms.