Quick Hits: Phil Bickford, Oaks Christian High School
I’ve had a chance to see quite a bit of Phil Bickford lately, seeing the mid season tournament game against Bonita, his playoff start against Northview, and the CIF Championship game where he allowed just one hit (an infield single) and he struck out 18. With the late season success and a jump in velocity, Bickford has seen his name shoot up the draft boards, with many projecting that he will be the second high school pitcher selected after Kohl Stewart.
With all the Bickford hype, I wanted to seek out our own Kevin Scobee to get his input on Bickford and his mechanics. I’m a huge fan of Scobee’s work, and I’m sure you will like it too.
Scobee’s Initial Reaction: If you’re a fan of an up-tempo delivery, which I very much am, then Bickford is the kind of guy you love. I have some issues about his pre-load approach, but his exit from load phase includes a nice hip slide (body drifting into-and-out-of leg kick, never hitting a “balance point”, which restrains athleticism) which allows him to push his release-point extension to its maximum point.
The downward angle of his shoulders after hand break isn’t ideal, and the glove-arm action needs to be cleaned up a little, but the glove is still firm at release keeping the body on-line.
A concern I would have with him moving forward would be him hitting a development program (like say, the Royals) that has made a concerted effort to slow down its pitchers and completely take away their athleticism (look at Hochevar, and now, Kyle Zimmer).
Likes: Arm action; firm glove side; body on-line at release. Interesting, isn’t it, that when a pitcher is allowed to move at a quicker pace, his athleticism allows for everything to work at maximum potential? Bickford gets moving from the start and throws his hips to release nicely, which really allows his arm-side fastball to jump (this pitch here: http://youtu.be/YA3ulXC8MjI?t=
Dislikes: Downward shoulder angle; abbreviated follow-through. The negative angle of the shoulders, as mentioned above, isn’t necessarily a red flag, but it would cut off the pitchers ability to promote action on secondary pitches. And the extension-side fastball will lack the jump the arm-side would have, because it will be harder for him to force release far enough to get two-seam action to be sharp, as opposed to be more of a fade as it is in these videos.
The couple of curve/slider/slurves in these two videos don’t show a real great break, and it looks at this point the pitch is more for a change of speed than anything that can be used as a real out pitch. The shoulder angle, and the abbreviated finish (not allowing the natural rotation of the hips to complete and the leg to swing through) does not lend itself to creating a sharp action on breaking stuff. It also looks like he’s trying to throw a true curve ball, instead of slider/cutter that would fit his arm angle better. There are some organizations that are very anti-slider in their teachings, but forcing a curve onto a pitcher that doesn’t have the wrist dexterity or arm angle to accommodate it, would cause more harm than good.
Main takeaway: Right now, Bickford looks to be mostly a 2-seamer and change up guy (this one isn’t bad) because that’s what his mechanics make easiest for him. If the full trunk rotation on the follow-through gets ironed out, there’s opportunity there to throw a really nice slider/cutter with that arm speed. That’s the approach I’d take with him, and mold him after a Max Scherzer type.
If Bickford lands in an organization that will allow him to keep his tempo, his arm-action, and his hip-slide, I can see a pretty high ceiling here. But the things about him that are pluses, in organizations that have a more one-size-fits-all approach to pitcher deliveries, will most likely be taken away to get him to “stay back” and “stay on top of the ball”. With his natural arm-side run, in a more traditional development program, he’s the kind of guy that screams, “let’s slow him down and teach him a sinker.” Which is what the Royals did with Hochevar, and to some extent what the Tigers did with Rick Porcello, and it takes away their ability to have true swing-and-miss stuff.
Bickford Strikes out 15
Bickford’s full start vs Bonita
|PITCH||VELO||OUTCOME||Phil Bickford, Oaks Christian High School|
|1||1||94||CS||4/27/2013||vs Bonita High School|
|26||1||94||K S/M||77||1||93||K S/M|