During a recent one-week span, Central Bucks East righthander Nick Bitsko celebrated three milestones, certainly a period he always will look back on fondly.
“It was a memorable week,” Bitsko said in a recent phone interview.
To recap, on June 10, he was selected in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft, No. 24 overall by the Tampa Bay Rays. Two days later he graduated at Central Bucks East.
Finally, on June 16, the milestone week ended when Bitsko turned 18.
Of course, another major milestone occurred the following week on Tuesday, June 23 when Bitsko signed with the Rays. MLB.com reported that it was for a $3 million bonus and a person familiar with the details confirmed that figure to The Inquirer. He signed for slightly above the slot figure for the 24th pick, $2.83 million.
“It was exciting to sign and a relief,” he said.
Then again, there wasn’t really any suspense. While the Cleveland Indians were selecting at No. 23, the Rays were on the phone.
“We agreed on a deal probably five minutes before the pick,” Bitsko said. “Cleveland was picking right when we agreed.”
The contract was signed by Bitsko at the Rays’ home stadium in St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field. He spent three days visiting with the Rays.
“It was really nice there and I had never been to St. Pete,” he said. “The Trop was awesome.”
A 6-foot-4, 225-pound righthander, Bitsko’s story leading up to the draft has been well documented. In January, he reclassified. By accelerating his graduation, he was then available for the 2020 draft.
The coronavirus pandemic hit and wiped out his high school season.
The only time scouts saw him this spring was when he threw one bullpen session before the season was canceled at The Facility, a baseball academy in Huntingdon Valley. The Rays were among the MLB teams that attended that session.
Bitsko certainly made the most of the downtime once the season was canceled in March and the draft. He embraced analytics.
“With the pandemic I was wondering what I could do in the three months (leading up to the draft),” Bitsko said. “It was like another offseason.”
Scouting is so much more sophisticated these days. Teams want to know much more than how hard a pitcher throws.
And that is where analytics came in. Bitsko began using Rapsoda, which has an app that provides instant data on pitch velocity, spin rate, true spin rate, spin axis, spin efficiency and more.
The hard-throwing righthander posted on Instagram a video of him pitching and it also included some of the other figures like spin efficiency and spin axis.
Before delving into the analytics, Bitsko said he had an idea about it, but not to the extent he does now. And he embraced the new knowledge.
“I think positing all that information really helped me leading up to the draft,” he said.
Among the information was one of the old standby stats : He threw 98.5 miles per hour.
Like most players in his situation, Bitsko isn’t sure of his next move and says the uncertainty due to the pandemic is difficult.
“Usually you have an offseason and you have a timetable and know when to throw,” he said. “I could be throwing in August or hopefully in an instructional league but right now we don’t know.”
What he does know is that it is great to get going on his professional career, whenever that happens.
He says he has no timetable as to when to get to the major leagues.
With the contract signed, he has been receiving a lot of congratulatory calls and texts from friends. Bitsko appreciates all the support and is now looking to the next stage.
“I will let the chips fall, work hard and try to control what I can control,” he said. “I just want to compete to the best of my ability.”