Bickford is a 17 year old 6'4" 185 lb Right Handed Pitcher from Ventura, CA with a College commitment to Cal State-Fullerton. He throws the kind of heat that gives a guy the ceiling of an Ace starting pitcher. Bickford's been on radars for a year or so, but he was a Right Hander who threw mostly in the upper 80's. He was good enough that if he didn't improve he was probably fringe draftable, but more likely to go on to College. Suddenly this spring he began throwing in the mid to upper 90's, that'll get you drafted in the First Round. There's a risk with drafting any High School player. With Pitchers the risk is that in High School a guy that can throw 94, frankly, doesn't need to be very good at anything else. Many HS Pitchers don't have much of a changeup, and may have Curves or Sliders that are developing, but not quite there yet. When you draft them you do so knowing that there's a risk those secondary pitches just never develop. Ultimately if all you have is a 4 seam fastball, it doesn't matter how fast you can throw it, pro hitters will eat you for breakfast.
Bickford isn't all raw potential though. He has a Slider and a changeup, and while both are developing, he does have excellent control for a High Schools Pitcher with a roughly 10:1 K:BB ratio. I was a little heistant to type that, because anyone who's ever watched a High School game, even at high levels knows there always seem to be a guy or two who just refuses to not swing at everything. In this case though, scouting reports seem to back up the numbers and note Bickford with very good control. Now, as he advances in the majors he'll probably tweak some mechanics or alter a grip or make other minor changes that may change that control some, but the raw material and ability is there to start with. It should also be noted that Bickford throws his changeup mid-80's. That's pretty damn fast. If his Fastball stays mid 90's or improves, a mid-80's change is fine, but it's always good to have ~10 mph between the change and your fastball, so he may have to learn how to bring that down a few mph.
So, let's see some videos. There are a few Bickford videos out there. The first one here is courtesy of Bullpen Banter. This is game video and aside from a few pitches his command and control do appear to be quite good. He has an interesting 3/4 delivery that he appears to repeat consistently. Of the pitches the Slider appears to have nice movement, but it is probably (as would seem commonsense) the harder to control as it appears to get away a bit on a few pitches. The fastball in most spots does seem to have some sink.
More game tape from Bullpen Banter here. Control looks a little mosre sketchy than the video above. As a bonus, this video shows his velocity on every pitch in the top corner. That is the best part of this video, frankly.
It's not hard at all to imagine Bickford adding 2 or 3 mph to that fastball as he matures and adds some muscle. For me, any starter who can throw mid to upper 90's with movement has Ace ceiling. The only way he'll reach that though is with rather significant refinement of his Slider and Change and probably the addition of a fourth pitch. He's likely a mid-to late first rounder now. Should he decide to go to College, it isn't inconceivable that in a few years he might be a top 5 type pick. If he signs now, I'd imagine a ceiling of Ace Starter with a likely floor of a Kyle Farnsworth style flamethrower out of the bullpen. That's a wide range, but of all the High School Pitchers in this draft, I don't think any have as high a ceiling as Bickford and I think 10 years from now people may look back at the 2013 draft and say "Wow, Phil Bickford was picked that late?" (In fairness there's an equally strong chance you'll say "Who the hell is Phil Bickford?").