Jesse Biddle has the kind of size and makeup that the Phillies like in a pitcher; he's tall (6', 6"), well proportioned (225 pounds) and smart. It's those qualities that made Biddle the highest drafted local kid that the Phillies have ever taken and both the Phillies and Biddle are excited about the opportunities ahead of him. For Biddle's side, the celebration at his home turned into something resembling the best World Series celebration you could ever imagine; family and friends literally jumped on top of the 18 year-old, all the while careful not to injure that now prized left arm.
"It was really crazy," remembered Biddle. "It was your basic dogpile with people just jumping on wanting to celebrate. Luckily, I came out of it okay."
Ironically, Biddle had been told by a number of scouts that he wouldn't be going to the Phillies, either because he wouldn't be there when they drafted or because they simply wouldn't take a hometown player because of the added pressure that it can put on a young player. "There were a lot of scouts that told me that, but there was always something telling me I would wind up with them [the Phillies] and it all played out just right."
Repertoire: Biddle throws your basic fastball, curve and change and right now, the change-up may be the best of the three pitches. He's got a good separation in velocity between his low-90s fastball and the upper-70s change-up and is able to disguise the pitch well. He also has good enough control of the change-up to keep it down in the zone and it figures to get even better.
His fastball - he throws both a two-seamer and a four-seamer - doesn't have a lot of movement, especially when he throws the four-seamer. If he can't develop more movement, he'll have to just concentrate on his two-seamer, which has some movement away from left-handed hitters. When he threw for the Phillies last week, his fastball was consistently around 94 miles per hour, just a tad faster than he has generally been clocked in games.
Of all his pitches, the curve needs the most work. The velocity is around 70 mph and again, there isn't enough of a sharp movement to make the pitch truly effective and hitters at higher levels will eat it alive. Keep in mind though, that he's a high school kid and it's not uncommon for the curve to be the latest bloomer in a pitcher's repertoire. This season, Biddle added a slider to his weapons and the pitch is still a work-in-progress, but he's shown some promise with the pitch and will likely keep throwing it in the pro ranks.
As Biddle progresses, he'll likely have two above-average pitches, with his fastball and change-up being the best of his pitches and the curve being at least good enough to get by and keep hitters honest.
Control and Mechanics: This is where Biddle is going to need some help. Mechanically, Biddle has the basics, but doesn't repeat a smooth motion consistently, which is one reason why he sometimes struggles with his control. Some simple instruction and repeated work with Phillies coaches should be able to correct the basic flaws that Biddle has developed and there is no reason to believe that he won't be able to clean up his mechanics and develop better control of his pitches.
While he may mature a little more physically, Biddle already has a strong lower-half to his body. One thing that the Phillies won't have to work on is Biddle's poise on the mound. He's very much in control of himself and doesn't get rattled when he gets into trouble.
The Phillies will address all of the shortcomings that Biddle has with his mechanics and control and they're all easily fixable at this point in his career. It's going to be interesting to see how quickly that work can be done and how much better it will make him once he's more of a pitcher than just a big kid throwing a baseball.
Projection: Even with his flaws and rough spots, it's easy to see how Biddle could become a middle-of-the-rotation starter and if his curve absolutely doesn't get any better, he would be a fine option for a bullpen spot. Patience is the key with Biddle, because he is very raw and needs some guidance and there's no way to tell how quickly he'll adapt to what's ahead of him. There's also the added pressure of being a local kid drafted by his hometown team, which Biddle will have to deal with. Odds are though that the Phillies were able to find a young left-hander who can figure into their rotation at some point down the road and it figures that they'll be extremely patient and careful with Biddle.
By the way, Biddle had committed to the University of Oregon, but it doesn't figure that he'll be heading to classes there anytime soon. It figures that he should be a pretty easy signing for the Phillies and he'll be ready to go when the Gulf Coast League season starts in a couple of weeks.