Even with the addition of A.J. Burnett, the Phillies rotation, once the most dominant in all of baseball, is thin. Kyle Kendrick and his career 4.8 SO/9 are currently slated for the fourth starter spot and recently signed Cuban Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is Philadelphia’s best option to to round out the rotation. Gonzalez was something of a mystery headed into spring training and now that outside evaluators are getting a chance to see him, the reports have not been promising. In this vacuum of qualified hurlers, one top prospect may get ample opportunity to exhibit his stuff at the highest level: Jesse Biddle.
Biddle, 22, has been one of the more promising young arms in the Phillies’ organization since they drafted him out of high school in the first round of the 2010 draft. He has been ranked by Baseball America as the team’s first or second best prospect each of the last three seasons and made the second half of BA’s top 100 list each of the last two seasons.
At 6’4, 225 pounds, the left handed Biddle is an imposing presence on the mound and he has the intense stuff to match. His fastball sits in the low-90′s and his changeup is his quality offspeed pitch, but the curveball is his bread and butter. Like the one once thrown by 200 game winner Andy Pettite, to whom the Phillies’ young lefthander has often been compared, Biddle’s curveball has tremendous break, sweeping across the zone. Should starting fail to work out, Biddle could have a lengthy career as a left handed specialist in the bullpen; lefty batters can’t hit the pitch.
After three years climbing the minor league ladder, Biddle finally reached Double-A last season, but to middling results. His ERA was a respectable 3.64 and he used his three pitch repertoire to strike out 10 batters per nine innings, but he was wild, posting a BB/9 of 5.3. The erraticness is not a new development for the prospect who owns a 4.4 BB/9 over the course of his entire professional career. That said, the stats from last season can be somewhat forgiven as Biddle pitched through whooping cough throughout much of the year, which may have affected his performance.
His overall showing in Triple-A this Spring should be a much better barometer of how his command has progressed. Philadelphia’s window of opportunity is closing rapidly (some, including myself, might say that it has already closed), and they are desperate for any minor or major addition that could help the club. With his team on the brink, GM Ruben Amaro Junior will not trot out a struggling fifth starter for very long. If Biddle impresses in Lehigh Valley, he could be in Philadelphia before long.