Bickford has some of the best pure swing-and-miss stuff from last year’s MLB Draft class, and has put that stuff on display through his first three starts of 2016 with Class A Augusta, striking out 24 batters in just 13.2 IP. The righty throws with a lot of effort and comes with a sharp falloff to the first base side, each of which can lead to an inconsistent release, and very soft in-zone command, not to mention periodic bouts of wildness.
Thus far Bickford’s two biggest weapons have been a plus fastball, which comes in two- and four-seam variations, and his slider, which is a true swing-and-miss offering when on. Additionally, Bickford’s changeup has shown improved deception compared to prior years, and now shows above-average potential.
Evaluators have been split in the past as to whether Bickford profiles best in the rotation or closing out games, and that issue has yet to be fully litigated. It’s tough to envision Bickford as an arm with enough consistency and command to routinely turn over major league lineups, but the quality of the stuff is good enough that he may be able to survive with fringy efficiency so long as he doesn’t saddle himself with an excessive number of bases on balls. The focus for now is limiting the number of soft sliders and flat changeups resulting from missed release points, and tightening up his fastball command. –Nick J. Faleris