For the last three or four years, it’s been pretty much a given that top pitching prospect Jesse Biddle of the Philadelphia Phillies would be a rather hurried path to the Pattison Avenue address of Citizens Bank Park.
After all, Biddle was a high school superstar in the city of Philadelphia for Germantown Friends, a prep school, and the Phillies No. 1 pick in the June 2010, major league draft. His fastball topped out at 97 miles per hour.
Since then, though, Biddle offered plenty of red flags for the Phillies to be concerned about. They still should be, even though GM Ruben Amaro Jr. promoted him to the 40-man major league roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft.
The first and most important red flag is that Biddle cannot get minor leaguers out. His numbers are far from impressive, especially for a No. 1 pick. In Class AA ball at Reading (Pa.), Biddle finished with a 4-12 record before being shut down. You expect No. 1 picks to go 12-4, not 4-12.
His lack of command is another red flag and, although this is common for young left-handers, some of them never get the hang of the strike zone. Last year, Biddle walked 82 batters in 138 1/3 innings, an average of 5.3 per nine innings. The Phillies have to hope that’s an oddity and not an unbreakable habit.
No one expects that just because Biddle is on the 40-man roster he will be there by the opening game of the season. In fact, he’ll probably end up with Triple-A Lehigh Valley (Pa.) with one more year to prove he’s the kind of top-of-the-line pitcher the Phillies drafted. If he doesn’t cut it this season at the top levels of the minors, he risks becoming another home town guy the Phils drafted who did not work out.