Giants go with power pitcher in 1st round
Bickford notched 166 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings this year
SAN FRANCISCO -- Taking a course Monday that has proven to be a fruitful one for them, the Giants selected right-hander Phil Bickford from the College of Southern Nevada with their first-round pick (18th overall) in the MLB Draft.
This marked the third time in four years that the Giants used their top selection on a college pitcher. The previous two were right-handers Chris Stratton from Mississippi State (2012) and Tyler Beede from Vanderbilt University (2014). The most successful college pitcher the Giants recently drafted in the first round, of course, was right-hander Tim Lincecum from the University of Washington (2006), who has won two Cy Young Awards while remaining a mainstay of San Francisco's starting rotation since 2007.
In the supplemental portion of the first round, the Giants selected Boston College first baseman Chris Shaw with the 31st overall pick. Shaw hit .319 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs in just 144 at-bats this season.
"To be able to get a power arm and a power bat with our first two selections, we're pretty excited about it," Giants scouting director John Barr said. The Giants also spent their second-round pick, 61st overall, on University of Miami left-hander Andrew Suarez.
The Draft continues Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 10 a.m. PT.
Bickford was selected 10th overall by Toronto in the 2013 Draft out of Oaks Christian High School in Westlake, Calif., but did not sign. Barr said the Giants also rated Bickford worthy of selecting in that year's first round and followed him closely since.
Last summer, Bickford impressed observers by performing in relief in the Cape Cod League and striking out 42 in 27 2/3 innings for Yarmouth-Dennis. His fastball reached 98 mph during this stint, prompting some talent evaluators to suggest that Bickford might be better suited to pitch out of the bullpen. But Barr ended speculation by declaring, "We're looking at him as a starter to begin with."
Bickford, rated the Draft's No. 21 prospect by MLB.com, posted a 9-1 record with a 1.45 ERA and 166 strikeouts in 86 2/3 innings this year. That performance earned him Scenic West Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. He was on the 60-man midseason "watch list" for the Golden Spikes Award, emblematic of the nation's top collegiate player.
Listed at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Bickford transferred to Southern Nevada, a junior college, from Cal State Fullerton to be eligible for this year's Draft. Located in Henderson, Southern Nevada is the same junior college that Washington Nationals All-Star outfielder Bryce Harper attended before he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010. As a freshman at Fullerton in 2014, Bickford finished 6-3 with a 2.13 ERA. He struck out 74 and walked 13 in 76 innings.
Bickford, who turns 20 on July 10, recently tested positive for marijuana in a pre-Draft drug test. MLB conducts a pre-Draft medical program, which includes a random, unannounced drug test within 30 days before the Draft, for its top 200 prospects. Barr declined to address the drug test specifically, but stated that Bickford "has the makeup to fulfill his ability."