2. Phil Bickford
What was in the water in the Dodgers’ bullpen Gatorade container in 2021?
Whatever the secret substance was, keep it coming, because it seemed to turn well-established mortals into kings throughout the season, including one former Giants top prospect whose roster-bouncing days might now be over.
Phil Bickford, who has the distinction of being selected by both the Blue Jays and Giants in the first round of the MLB Draft (2013 and 2015, respectively), seemed to have bottomed out again in Milwaukee last spring, posting a single inning of two-earned-run baseball before losing his roster spot.
The Dodgers were there to scoop him up, and they soon rediscovered the arm talent that had been buried below an erratic surface since Bickford’s earlier days as a flame-throwing starting pitching prospect. In 56 games in Dodger Blue (eight games finished, by the way), Bickford struck out 59 men in 50.1 innings of action. His WHIP sat at just 1.033, barely above Vesia’s rarefied air, and far different than the story his minor-league numbers told.
Hell, he went a whole season in the Carolina League in 2019 with a 1.59 WHIP.
Even if Bickford remains in the bullpen and never becomes the starter the Jays and Giants believed they were getting, he’ll still be an extremely valuable commodity for a Dodgers team that’s on an unending search for high-impact, back-end arms. Though the right-hander is towards the bottom in exit velocity percentiles, he was among the very best at expected batting average against and ERA (83rd percentile xBA, 85th percentile xERA).
Those discounting the Dodgers bullpen with Blake Treinen likely elevated to the closer’s role — us included — should probably think long and hard about what Bickford and Vesia can be with heightened responsibility next year.