Last year's first round draft pick, Jesse Biddle, moved up the Phillies' prospect rankings in a hurry once he debuted in the pros. The highly regarded left-handed hurler was the Phils' target from the jump in last season's amateur draft.
Biddle, a Philadelphia native and life-long Phillies fan, has had the goal of pitching for the Phillies since he was 12 years old. And it is an ambition that Biddle's always taken seriously, as he wants baseball to be his life.
After he began getting attention in high school and received visits from scouts that represented other professional organizations, Biddle remained a Phillies fan, attending World Series games in both 2008 and 2009. Biddle cites another Phillies number 1 draft choice, current starting lefty pitcher Cole Hamels, as someone he looked up to prior to signing his first pro contract.
"I went to game 5 of the 2008 World Series, where Cole Hamels pitched in the rain. It was the game that got delayed, the two-parter. I went to both parts. I have to say, it was one of the most incredible moments of my life. I saw him, and I saw the way he handled it and the way he won MVP and I just thought, 'That's what I want to do.' It was incredible," Biddle said in an interview last week.
As a senior in high school, at Philadelphia's Germantown Friends School, Biddle went 9-2 with a save and a 1.06 ERA. Even more impressive, Biddle struck out an astounding 140 batters in 59 1/3 innings.
Prior to the draft, Biddle committed to play for the University of Oregon. However, faced with the opportunity to fulfill a dream that he'd had since little league, Biddle decided to sign with the Phillies rather than attend college. He weighed his options and was confident that he could handle professional baseball, so the decision was easy.
Now 19 years old, Biddle's best pitch is his fastball which has some solid movement and reaches the mid-90's. Biddle also throws a curveball that will improve as he throws it more in the minor leagues. He had gotten away from using the curve, despite his high comfort level with it, after some scouts had told him it might hurt his draft position. He began using a slider as his breaking pitch. The Phillies, however, like Biddle's curve and he has brought it back to his pitch repertoire in place of the slider. Also in the mix is a change up that Biddle says he will work hard to improve, as he didn't use it much in high school, where a slower pitch would only have helped opposing batters' timing.
The 6'4", 245 pounder, Biddle, began his career with the Gulf Coast League Phillies, where he posted a 3-1 record and a 4.32 ERA with a complete game shutout and 41 strike outs in 33 1/3 innings (9 starts). Prior to the GCL playoffs, Biddle was promoted and he wrapped up his first pro season with 3 starts as a member of the low Class A Williamsport Crosscutters. In those games, Biddle went 1-0 and held opponents to a .152 batting average. One statistic of concern with the Cutters, though, was his strike out to walk ratio...9 K's, 11 walks in 10 1/3 innings.
The transition, from high school competition to rookie league match ups, wasn't as difficult as Biddle expected. Although, he feels the umpires and their smaller strike zones were the biggest thing he needed to adjust to. As Biddle gains more experience, high walk totals should be a thing of the past.
Expect Biddle to see action as a member of the Class A Lakewood BlueClaws in the South Atlantic League this coming season. It's not a lock that Biddle will begin the season on the defending league champs' opening day roster. The Phillies' method of holding back younger talent at extended spring training, during April, proved extremely successful for the likes of Julio Rodriguez and Jonathan Singleton in 2010. Jesse Biddle may follow suit this year as a player who waits until May to make his debut with Lakewood.
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