Biddle well aware of perception of Phillies' farm

Biddle well aware of perception of Phillies' farm

January 19, 2014, 10:00 am
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Jesse Biddle, 23, has a 3.34 ERA in 90 minor-league games, 89 of which were starts. (Photo: Reading Fightin Phils)

The ugly result of years of major wheeling and dealing is the depletion of a farm system. The Phillies have experienced that first-hand, and it's no secret that they've struggled since 2009 to develop young talent capable of coming in and producing when holes ultimately pop up.
 
That's changed a bit over the last year, as Cody Asche and Darin Ruf have earned regular playing time, Jonathan Pettibone and Ethan Martin cracked the rotation, Jake Diekman and B.J. Rosenberg finally turned raw stuff into results, and Domonic Brown has progressed into an everyday power hitter.
 
But the farm system is still criticized heavily, and will be until the Phils' top prospects begin making a difference at the major-league level.
 
While Asche will be allowed to sink or swim at third base in 2014, the two players who can potentially make the biggest impact and usher in the new era of Phillies baseball are power-hitting corner infielder Maikel Franco and left-handed starter Jesse Biddle.
 
So it bothers Biddle when he hears the constant bashing of the Phillies' farm.
 
"I am one of those guys they're saying can't help anything, so if they're going to say the minor leagues can't do anything to help, well, they're talking about me," Biddle said Thursday in the Phillies' clubhouse. "So that doesnt feel too good."
 
Biddle was brilliant last April before developing whooping cough and then plantar fasciitis. Those injuries combined with mental distractions kept him from progressing as expected. He struck out 10.0 batters per nine innings, but walked 82 in 138 1/3 innings. Way, way too many. 
 
Still, Biddle has the pedigree -- 27th overall pick in 2010 -- and the stuff to be a frontline starting pitcher in the majors.
 
"You've got to minimize the distractions," he said. "That's one of the biggest things I've learned. When I first started playing, I probably maximized the distractions.
 
"When I listen to sports talk radio -- which I do -- when they talk about the Phillies' minor leagues I turn it off, even if it's good.
 
"There's so much pressure and so much continuous stress as a major-leaguer, I can only imagine. It's tough enough as a minor-leaguer; I can't imagine how it is as a big-leaguer, especially when you're under that kind of scrutiny and that kind of watch from the city. So those are the kinds of things I want learn about and ask [about in spring training]."
 
Biddle knows that 2014 may finally be the year he gets to learn about that big-league stress. He was invited to his first major-league camp, and if he dominates Double A or Triple A early like he did in 2013, he could be near the top of the list to replace an injured starter in the Phillies' dangerously thin rotation. 
 
Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, Kyle Kendrick and Roberto Hernandez are the projected starting five, and Jonathan Pettibone is likely next in line.
 
But with Adam Morgan shelved for at least the first half of the season after January shoulder surgery (see story) and Ethan Martin better suited for relief work than starting duty, the Phillies have very little depth. They tried to add to it with guys like Sean O'Sullivan and Jeff Manship, but neither has an attractive major-league resume.
 
"In a lot of ways," Biddle said, "I'd like to think this can be the year I make my debut."