Phillies invite Biddle, Franco, 3 others to ST

Phillies invite Biddle, Franco, 3 others to ST
January 8, 2014, 4:30 pm

Jesse Biddle (left) has a 3.34 ERA and 9.4 K/9 in 90 minor-league games. (USA Today Images, AP)

The Phillies on Wednesday invited five more players to spring training: left-handed pitchers Jesse Biddle and Mario Hollands, right-hander Ken Giles, third baseman Maikel Franco and catcher Sebastian Valle.

Biddle and Franco are the two most intriguing games. Biddle, a Philly native, was the Phils' first-round pick in 2010. In 90 minor-league appearances, he's 26-29 with a 3.34 ERA and 9.4 strikeouts per nine innings. The 22-year-old went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 138 1/3 innings at Double A Reading in 2013.

Franco, 21, broke out in 2013 by hitting .320/.356/.569 with 31 homers, 103 RBIs and 36 doubles at Double A and Triple A. He played 59 games at third base and eight at first base.

Giles, 23, pitched in just 24 games in 2013 because of oblique injuries. He has a fastball that touches 100 mph and has struck out 152 batters in 112 1/3 minor-league innings. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound righty is likely destined for Double A.

Hollands, a 6-foot-5 lefty and 10th-rounder in 2010, went 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA last season for Clearwater and Reading. He struck out 7.8 batters per nine while walking just 2.2, and earned Phillies Minor League Pitcher of the Month honors in June.

Valle is definitely trending down as a prospect, but the Phils will need catching depth in spring training and this could be one of his final shots. He hit .203 with a .245 OBP at Double A last year; he was demoted from Lehigh Valley after 2012. From 2010-13, Valle struck out 387 times and walked just 59. Plate discipline is a major issue, though he's just 23 years old.

The Phillies have now invited a total of 16 players to spring training. Aside from the five above, they've extended invites to pitchers Shawn Camp, Jeff Manship, Sean O'Sullivan and Cesar Jimenez; catcher Lou Marson; infielders Reid Brignac and Andres Blanco; and outfielders Tony Gwynn, Jr., Clete Thomas, Dave Sappelt and Leandro Castro.