The Toronto Blue Jays selected a 17-year-old right-hander from California in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, making Phil Bickford the 10th pick overall.

"He's got outstanding fastball command," Toronto's scouting director Brian Parker said. "We've seen him up to 97 mph and he's regularly at 93-94. One of the things we like in his ability to get people out with the fastball. We think he's got one of the best fastballs in the draft, whether college or high school. I saw him at the Area Code games in Long Beach [Calif.] last summer. He's tall, athletic and young with a good arm and a high ceiling. He's just the type of guy we're looking for."


Bickford has signed a letter of intent to attend Cal State Fullerton on a scholarship. Parker said the organization is "confident" of being able to sign him into professional baseball instead.

Out of Oaks Christian High, Bickford compiled a 12-1 record with 146 strikeouts in 84-2/3 innings pitched this season and struck out 17 straight in his last outing, according to mlb.com.

With the first overall pick, the Houston Astros selected right-handed pitcher Mark Appel, a senior at Stanford University. Appel, who was considered a possible top pick in last years’ draft, fell to Pittsburgh at No. 8 but didn’t sign with the Pirates, instead returning to school.

The Blue Jays were represented in New Jersey by former first baseman Fred McGriff, a special assistant to president Paul Beeston. Parker and his staff made the pick from the draft room at the Rogers Centre.

Teams draft players with the aim of developing them toward their own rosters or to be used as trade bait. The Yankees picked McGriff in the ninth round in 1981 and traded him 18 months later to the Jays.

The starting lineup fielded by the Blue Jays in San Francisco had just one draft pick in the field, first baseman Adam Lind. Successes from the draft’s first round in the past have included closer Billy Koch (fourth, 1996), outfielder Vernon Wells (fifth, 1997), starter Ricky Romero (sixth, 2005), second baseman Aaron Hill (13th, 2203), starting pitcher Chris Carpenter (15th, 1993), outfielder Shawn Green (16th, 1991) and starter Roy Halladay (17th, 1995).

However, the farm system has generally failed to produce major league players from the J.P. Ricciardi draft years and the Alex Anthopoulos years are now on the clock. From his first draft in 2010, two players have been promoted to the majors, left-hander Sean Nolin, a sixth round selection, and right-hander Sam Dyson, a fouth-rounder. Both are playing in Double-A New Hampshire and together, they’ve appeared in three games, two for Dyson last season and one for Nolin this year.

The Jays were looking to pick the best player available at No. 10, rather than identifying a position of need.