Top Prospect #32: Joe Bisenius

Converting to life in the bullpen didn't go quite as easily as expected for Joe Bisenius in 2005. He stumbled through 36 relief appearances for the Lakewood BlueClaws, but the Phillies believe that in the long run, Bisenius is better suited to pitch in relief.

Joe Bisenius has been thought of as a major league prospect for a few years and was originally drafted by Montreal in 2003. The Phillies grabbed him in 2004 and he decided to forego his final season of eligibility at Oklahoma City University and sign with the Phillies. In his first pro season, Bisenius seemed destined for greatness with a 1.43 ERA in 11 starts at Batavia. The Phillies though decided he was better suited for a role as a reliever and moved him to the Lakewood BlueClaws' bullpen in 2005. The adjustment was tough and didn't go too well, with Bisenius posting a 5.88 ERA in 40 games - 36 of them in relief.

If the Phillies are serious about leaving Bisenius in the bullpen, it's going to take some work to get him adapted to life as a reliever. The move seems curious, since Bisenius had success at Batavia out of the rotation even though he did pitch in relief throughout his college career.

'04 Batavia 0 1 1.43 0 11 11 50.1 39 12 8 5 14 38
'05 Lakewood 6 4 5.88 4 40 4 64.1 66 45 42 5 37 56
Career 6 5 3.92 4 51 15 114.2 105 57 50 10 51 94

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies in the 12th round of the 2004 Draft out of Oklahoma City University. Was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 21st round of the 2003 Draft, but didn't sign.

Repertoire: Bisenius generally gets by on his fastball, but the Phillies are trying to change that. He's got a slider that is getting better and a straight change-up that is useable. The fact that his secondary pitches aren't really great is one reason for keeping him in the bullpen.

Pitching: When he first arrived at Batavia, the Phillies did some tweaking with his delivery and it paid off. He's got a large frame (6' 5", 210 pounds) and he sometimes loses control of his mechanics and things tend to fall apart when that happens. He's using all of his pitches more and more and is showing a lot of confidence to throw them at any point in the count. One of the keys for Bisenius is that he's very poised on the mound and doesn't let much rattle him.

Projection: The Phillies may want Bisenius to repeat some time at Lakewood and are likely to send him back there to start 2006. Once he seems to get a grasp on things though, he'll probably be moved along to Clearwater for the rest of the season. This will be a big season for Bisenius as he looks to prove that he's more like the pitcher that the Phillies saw in 2004 and less like the one that they saw at Lakewood in 2005. He's definitely got the skills to put it all together and start to move through the system pretty well.

ETA: At first, it seemed like Bisenius, who came from one of the better NAIA programs, would move pretty quickly. Now, that's not such a lock. Instead, he'll probably be more of a one-level per season kind of pitcher and may need a little more than a season at some levels. Again, it's going to be interesting to see what Bisenius does in 2006, but the odds are that he's going to bounce back and start to move through the system. It's likely to be 2009 before Bisenius really gets onto the Phillies radar for a shot at the big league bullpen.

Comparison: Coming out of college, there were a lot of comparisons to Jeff Weaver. Now, some scouts believe that they see a Ryan Madson type reliever in Bisenius, especially if he can put up better walk/strikeout numbers down the road.


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