Jesse Biddle has had an interesting journey to Triple-A. The Philadelphia Phillies 23-year old left-hander finally made a debut with the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs this month, a debut that was five years in the making. Where he goes from here, well, that largely depends on him.
Biddle was selected in the first round of the 2010 draft out of high school in Philadelphia, making him a nice local find. His stuff has always been solid but he lacks consistency with his command.
Biddle finished 4-1 in his half season debut in 2010, registering a 10.3 combined strikeout rate over two levels, something he has become known for throughout his long climb up the minor league ladder. He also finished with a 4.1 walk per nine rate, something that would haunt him throughout his tenure as well.
Last year was rough on Biddle. After a slow start to the season, he turned it on in mid-April with a four game stretch that seemed to show the stuff that the Phillies envisioned when they drafted him. He had back to back starts of seven innings for the Reading Fighting Phils, allowing one combined earned run while striking out 21 batters and walking just two. But then it spiraled downward.
In late May, Biddle was struck with a hail stone and consequently concussed. Despite being cleared to play, Biddle wasn’t necessarily ready to — still suffering from headaches and trauma — and in early June had the worst four game stretch of his career. He couldn’t escape the fourth inning in three of those four starts allowing 22 runs over 15.2 innings while walking 14.
Biddle would be shut down for roughly a month, given an emotional break to recover from both the concussion and lack of focus. He returned triumphantly in early August and looked like Jesse Biddle once again. He tossed five no- hit, shutout innings in Clearwater in his return, striking out five and walking one.
2015 saw Biddle back in Double-A for a third straight year. He wasn’t rocking the socks off anyone (4.25 ERA, 66/41 K/BB in 90 innings), but he finally earned his promotion to Triple-A after five years. His first start with Lehigh Valley was not pretty, and it appeared that Biddle may have regressed once again.
He didn’t make it out of the third inning, walking the bases loaded on 13 pitches before allowing a sacrifice fly and a single. But then, in his second start, something clicked.
The 23-year old was sensational in his July 17th start, earning himself International Pitcher of the Week honors. He hurled seven innings, struck out seven and walked one. He landed 61 of his pitches for strikes, which isn’t overly impressive, but certainly promising.
Biddle also handled adversity well. Sitting at 92 pitches after six solid innings, Biddle was asked to once again take the mound in the seventh. He sat the Red Wings down 1-2-3, completely freezing Oswaldo Arcia on a nasty curve for a strikeout to start the inning.
Where does that leave Biddle and his future in Philadelphia? His pitch repertoire is improving. He still possesses a sharp fastball that sits in the low-90s, and his curve is big and swoops in confusing batters. He has a nice change up and is learning his newest pitch — a slider he hasn't used regularly since high school — this season. He simply needs to become more consistent in placing them and mixing them up, which he did on Saturday.
Aaron Nola made a very impressive debut last night. Adam Morgan seems to be entrenched in the rotation. David Buchanan looks to be finding that groove he had last season in his impressive rookie debut. And Ben Lively — who was acquired this offseason — is having a nice season in Reading. The Phillies do have young options in the pitching department.
But through all of the ups and downs, Biddle has remained a Top 10 prospect in the Phillies system, and there is a reason for that. With the trade deadline looming, and the Phillies sure to be sellers, a few more solid starts could see Biddle finally make his long awaited way to the big leagues.
He will take the mound tonight for his third Iron Pig outing.