The Blue Jays have lost their first-round draft pick for the second time in three years, unless minds change before 4 p.m. Friday, the deadline imposed by major league baseball for inking draftees.
According to multiple reports, high school pitcher Phil Bickford intends to accept a scholarship to Cal State Fullerton rather than turn pro.
In 2011, the Jays offered $2.5-million to first-round draft pick Tyler Beede. The right-hander from the Boston area became the only first-rounder to turn down an offer, joining Vanderbilt University. He’s pitching this summer for Team USA’s national college team.
In 2009, six-foot-four, 220-pound left hander James Paxton of Ladner, B.C. was chosen in the first round (37th overall) by the Jays but he turned down the offer and returned to the University of Kentucky. Seattle drafted him in the fourth round in 2010 and he has since climbed the latter to AAA, going 6-6 with a 4.63 ERA this season for Tacoma.
Bickford attended the same school as Joe Montana’s and Wayne Gretzky’s sons, Westlake Village Oaks Christian, near Los Angeles.
Baseball designates amounts for each draft pick. The amount slotted to the 10th pick was $2.9-million; the Jays needed to offer at least 40 per cent of that amount to retain the first-round pick in next year’s draft.
“We definitely made an offer but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be accepted,” Anthopoulos told reporters in Cleveland on Thursday.
On draft day, the Jays director of amateur scouting, Brian Parker, called Bickford a high-ceiling player, exactly what the team was looking for.
"We've checked into this kid's background, we've looked into him and we're confident we can get this guy signed," Parker said.
Several scouting sources indicated Bickford had a top-notch fastball with a below-average fastball and slider. His high school coach, Tim Penprase, said in an interview there hadn’t been a pressing need for Bickford to develop his off-speed pitches, because his fastball overwhelmed high-school level competition. The right-hander struck out 18 to lead the school to a Division 4 high school championship, in a 4-0 loss.