Jesse Biddle feature
By Jeff Louderback
Note: This was originally published in Baseball America
When Jesse Biddle was drafted in the first round (27th overall) by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010, it marked the beginning of a memorable and exhaustive week that also saw him graduate from high school and start his professional baseball career.
Unlike many first rounders, Biddle essentially said “Where do I sign?” after hearing Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig announce his name.
Though he had committed to play for the fledgling University of Oregon baseball program, Biddle had incentive to sign that extended beyond the $1.16 million bonus he received. The 6-foot-4 left-hander was born and raised in Philadelphia. There are photos of him at old Veterans Stadium when he was two years old. Biddle recalls watching left-hander Randy Wolf pitch against the Cardinals when he was seven, and one of his all-time favorite moments is when he sat behind home plate with his father, David Biddle, and watched the Phillies defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in Game Five of the 2008 World Series to capture their first championship since 1980.
“The Phillies have always been a significant part of my life, so once they drafted me, I was excited about getting my career started,” said Biddle, who graduated from Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia. “I watched the draft at my uncle’s house – he is one of the most loyal Phillies fans I know – and when I heard my name called, it was just one step towards fulfilling a dream.
“It’s emotional and exciting to be drafted by the team you have followed growing up, and it’s humbling to be selected in the first round, but everyone here (in the minor leagues) has the same objective of reaching the majors,” Biddle added. “So once the excitement of getting drafted, graduating from high school and signing with the Phillies in the same week subsided, it was suddenly time to get focused and show them that they made the right choice.”
After he signed in 2010, Biddle was assigned to the Gulf Coast League Phillies, where he was 3-1 with a 4.32 ERA in nine starts. He also saw a taste of the New York-Penn League when he posted a 2.61 ERA in three starts at Williamsport.
“Signing right away and getting the experience that first year in the Gulf Coast League and at Williamsport was a good decision because I was able to get to know coaches and teammates, and get accustomed to the routine of professional baseball,” Biddle explained. “Because of that, I felt comfortable during my first spring training, and I was assigned to Lakewood instead of remaining in extended spring training.”
Biddle spent the entire 2011 season at Lakewood in the South Atlantic League, where he was 7-8 with a 2.98 ERA, holding hitters to a .219 average and allowing 104 hits in 133 innings. He is 7-4 with a 3.23 ERA in 21 starts with Clearwater in the Florida State League, with 116 strikeouts in 111.1 innings.
A South Atlantic League All-Star last year, Biddle struck out the side and allowed two hits in one inning in the Florida State League All-Star Game this summer.
The 21-year-old Biddle has an array of plus pitches, including a four-seam fastball, which touches 94 but typically ranges from 90-93; a change-up, a slider, a 12-to-6 curve ball and a two-seam fast ball. What the Phillies especially like about Biddle is his maturity and his work ethic.
“As an organization, you believe you know a guy’s maturity and makeup, but until you get him into your system, nothing is certain,” said Joe Jordan, the first-year director of player development for the Phillies who was director of scouting for the Baltimore Orioles when he first saw Biddle. “Jesse is an intelligent kid who lives and breathes pitching. He’s a student of the game who has the intangibles and the stuff to be a successful major league starting pitcher.”
At Lakewood, Biddle struggled to an 0-4 record and a 5.91 ERA over his first five starts. He worked with pitching coach Steve Schrenk to improve his delivery and his approach, and rebounded to earn All-Star status and receive a promotion to Clearwater for 2012.
“No matter how high the expectations are from the Phillies and from the fans, they don’t nearly match the expectations I have for myself,” Biddle said. “Early on at Lakewood, I was overthrowing and my delivery was not where it needed to be. Once I improved that, and focused on pitching instead of just throwing, the results were better.”
Chris Truby knows Biddle well having managed the organization’s top overall pitching prospect at Williamsport, Lakewood and now Clearwater. Biddle’s ability to recover from a tough outing is impressive, Truby believes.
“Having struggles is part of the development process. It’s how you respond to them that plays a role in determining how successful you will be,” Truby said. “Jesse’s maturity, competitiveness and on-the-mound presence separates him, along with his plus pitches.”
Biddle is not only a Phillies prospect, but he is still a dedicated fan who closely monitors the parent team’s progress. He took notice that the club signed fellow left-hander Cole Hamels to a contract extension and envisions the day when he is part of the same rotation.
“When you’re drafted, it’s natural that you want to make it to the majors with that team. Being from Philadelphia and going to Phillies games for as long as I can remember, it would be special to stand on the mound at Citizens Bank Park,” Biddle said. “I have a lot more work to do before that happens, though. There are new challenges at each level of the minors, and it’s important to remain focused on being successful at your current level before envisioning what you will do at the next one.”