Earlier today, the MLB announced that Milwaukee Brewers prospect Phil Bickford had been suspended for 50 games without pay for failing a second test for a drug of abuse. Bickford ranks as Milwaukee’s fifth-best prospect and #54 in all of baseball according to MLB Pipeline. He joined the organization this past summer as a part of package from the San Francisco Giants for lefty reliever Will Smith.
Prior to being drafted by San Francisco in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Bickford tested positive for marijuana during a pre-draft drug screening. Players that are on the 40 man roster are not subject to tests for marijuana as a part of the CBA but minor leaguers are not permitted to use the substance, which has now been approved for recreational use in eight states, including Bickford’s home state of California. Should Bickford fail a third drug test before he’s added to the 40 man roster, he’d be subject to a 100 game suspension.
Bickford spent the 2016 season split between low-A and high-A, making 23 appearances (22 starts) and tossing 120.0 innings with a 2.92 ERA. He struck out 10.1 batter per nine innings against 3.2 walks and allowed just 6 home runs all season. Bickford’s changeup and control need polish and he’s more low-to-mid-90s than the 98 MPH he reportedly hit coming out of the draft, but if he doesn’t work out as a starter his fastball/slider combination could work well in the back end of the bullpen. Bickford won’t be eligible to return next season until the end of May, which, as Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs notes, could make him a candidate to pitch in the Arizona Fall League next season.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference