Pair of Unsigned 2013 First-Rounders
Headline Baseball’s Draft Class of 2016
When the Toronto Blue Jays failed to sign righthander Phil Bickford, the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, and the Miami Marlins didn’t agree to terms with lefthander Matt Krook, a supplemental first-rounder, the two California high school pitchers immediately moved to the top of the charts for the 2016 draft.
Perfect Game has taken an early look at the Top 100 Prospects in that class, and Bickford, now a freshman in college at Cal State Fullerton, is predictably No. 1 on the list, and Krook, who hooked on at Oregon, is at No. 2.
The two were relative late bloomers as high-school seniors, and along with Florida State freshman shortstop Ben Deluzio, were easily the highest unsigned picks from the 2013 draft to make their way into the college ranks. Deluzio, a third-round pick of the Marlins, ranks No. 48 overall among the top prospects for 2016.
Bickford’s place at the top of the list was a given when he rejected a final offer from the Blue Jays, who failed to sign their first-round pick for the second time in three years. He expressed a desire to attend college all along, and the Blue Jays were never able to match his pre-draft price tag of a reported $4.25 million without being assessed a possible significant penalty for going over their allotted bonus amount under terms of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The slot amount for the 10th pick in the draft was $2.921 million, and the Jays would have been taxed for any amount they paid above $3,665 million.
With a fastball in the 91-94 mph range that peaked at 97, along with good movement and location of the pitch, the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Bickford made an easy transition to the college ranks at Cal State Fullerton this fall, though is still developing a better feel for his changeup.
Despite an impressive resume, he may have a difficult time breaking into Fullerton’s weekend rotation in 2014 as the Titans return three starters who combined for 33 wins a year ago, including sophomore righthanders and Thomas Eshelman (12-3, 1.48) and Justin Garza (12-0, 2.03), two projected high-round picks in 2015.
Krook’s desire to make a meaningful contribution at Oregon as a freshman is also cut out for him as the Ducks have an equally-formidable, established rotation with the return of junior righthander Tommy Thorpe (7-5, 2.16), sophomore lefthander Cole Irvin (12-3, 2.48) and junior lefthander Jake Reed (6-6, 3.50)—all of whom have experience on the mound with USA Baseball’s college-national team.
Unlike Bickford, Krook had every intention of signing out of high school when drafted by the Marlins, and had actually agreed to terms on a contract that was to provide a $1.6 million bonus. But his hopes were dashed late last June after he failed his physical, when Marlins team doctors discovered irregularities in his pitching shoulder. Rather than agree to a reduced bonus offer of $600,000 from the team, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound lefthander elected to not sign at all, and turn his attention to playing in college.
Krook showed the makings of a solid three-pitch mix this fall in practice at Oregon, with a fastball that was typically at 91-93 mph and peaked at 95, along with a knee-buckling 12-to-6 curve. His stuff was electric when his delivery was in sync, but he still has a ways to go to establish more consistent command, and undoubtedly will begin his career at Oregon as a mid-week starter or long reliever.
Several other college freshmen had aspirations of being drafted in the first round out of high school last June, but slipped appreciably for a variety of reasons—most chiefly signability. Among the highly-ranked first-year players are Tennesse righthander Kyle Serrano (No. 5), Nebraska outfielder Ryan Boldt (No. 7), Clemson catcher Chris Okey (No. 8) and Oklahoma State lefthander Garrett Williams (No. 10).
Florida had the greatest recruiting haul of any college with five players in the Top 100, while Auburn, California, Oklahoma State and Texas have three players apiece.
The high-school crop in the 2016 draft class is naturally much less defined, but Perfect Game ranks a pair of Florida righthanders, Anthony Molina and Austin Bergner, as the top candidates.
The 6-foot-3, 170-pound Bergner is presently the more-developed of the two, with better raw stuff overall along with superior command and pitchability, but he is also 17 months older than the fast-rising Molina and will be 19 when eligible for the draft in 2016. He has already attended a dozen Perfect Game events, so his rising prospect status in the scouting industry is well-established.
Molina is still growing into his lanky 6-foot-4, 190-pound frame, but has a long, loose and fast arm action with a lively fastball that has been clocked up to 93 mph, and is already considered a more dominant pitch than Bergner’s. Molina should only add significant velocity as he matures physically, but his secondary pitches need developing.
Only time will tell whether Molina or Bergner, or any of the other top prospects in this year’s high-school and college classes, have the talent to eventually overtake Bickford and Krook as the top talent in the 2016 class, but they’ll have the better part of three years to try and accomplish it.
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