The Future is Unwritten: Jesse Biddle Scouting Report
One piece of advice I always lend to those who seek to begin a serious scouting hobby is as follows:
“Watch baseball at all levels. High School, college, low minors, upper minors….everything. And above all, make sure you don’t stop watching MLB games.”
The last slice of that counsel is the most important. Too often will inexperienced scouting enthusiasts fully immerse themselves in prospects and lose sight of what a Major League player looks like. There’s a reason that you’re constantly looking at the box when you put together that jigsaw puzzle. You need to know what the finished product is supposed to look like while you work. Watching prospects is no different. Last Thursday, Jesse Biddle looked like a big leaguer. Drink it in.
Jesse Biddle is built like a heavy oak door. Broad shouldered and thick thighed, hitters have to crane their necks to peer around his girth and see the batter’s eye. At a long limbed 6’4” and a well distributed 225lbs, Jesse Biddle is built like Ernest Wilford. The delivery is as graceful and repetitive as you could hope for someone his size. At just 21 years old, Biddle is clearly in control of his extremities, weapons many gangly high schoolers never learn to harness. Biddle uses his lower half efficiently to help maximize velocity. I’d like to see more torque generated by the hips, assuming the mechanical adjustments you’d have to make to get it wouldn’t negatively impact his control.
While not electrifying, Biddle’s stuff is nothing to shrug at. He dialed his fastball up to 93mph and mostly sat between 90-92mph with loads of downhill plane thanks to that size and arm angle. That’s plus velocity, and it plays up a bit due to Biddle’s extension and some deception. He commanded that fastball much better than he did in his sixteen strikeout performance earlier this year, constantly spotting it on the corner, at the knees, to both sides of the plate. That’s what had me most excited. Biddle was pounding right handed hitters in at the knees at will, rarely missing up in the zone where Major League hitters will make you pay (like he was in that 16k game a few weeks ago). There was just one issue. The fastball is straight. It’s been the near undoing of lots of elite arms like Phil Hughes and Julio Teheran (both of whom have better velo than Biddle but generate less plane) and is one the Phillies have worked to correct by asking Biddle to turn the ball over and throw two-seamers (they sit in the upper 80s). Biddle is inching closer to the big leagues and that movement had better come soon.
The secondary arsenal is headlined by an upper 60mphs curveball that looks like every parabola you drew in your high school math classes. It has aggressive, audible rotation and is released from Biddle’s hand with the same speed as his fastball. Not only does it really move (albeit early), but it will screw with hitters’ timing. Biddle shows an ability to adjust the pitch’s Cartesian coordinates and throw it for strikes as well as in the dirt for swings and misses. His usage of the curveball will be very important in the big leagues and I’d like to do further study on Uncle Charlie soon.
The changeup will flash, and Biddle is maintaining a much more consistent arm speed on it than he was in Clearwater when it was easier to identify out of his hand. It lacks consistency but has a half step forward, a very encouraging sign. He’ll throw a slider in warm-ups but never showed it during the game.
Biddle has some other little things to work on. The pace at which he works needs polish. He pitches at a comfortable and enjoyably high rate when nobody is on base. When someone does get on, Biddle wants to continue at that rate but rushes things, only slowed superficially by repeated trips to the rosin bag so he can better grip the ball. He’ll also need to work on holding runners. I timed him in the 1.63-1.69 range delivering the ball home from the stretch. That’s not unheard of for a lefthanded pitcher, especially one as big as Biddle, but he’ll need a respectable pickoff move to keep runners near the bag a little longer to offset that time.
Overall, Jesse Biddle has the goods to be a mid-rotation starter. If he can figure out a way to add life to the fastball without sacrificing command and continue to hone the changeup to the point where it’s a slight above average pitch, then we’re looking at something a little less than a #2 and a little more than a #3 starter. If nothing else develops and he hits the big leagues with a plus (but straight) fastball, plus curve and averagish changeup and slightly above average command/control, that’s a #3/#4 starter depending on how soon hitters adjust to his deception and how fatally true the fastball is.
Other Minor League notes:
Tyson Gillies – Yuck. The swing needed changing if Gillies was ever going to be anything more than a fourth OF so you can’t fault the Phillies for trying to alter things. It hasn’t worked out and Gillies has been demoted back to Reading where he stills looks awful.
Zach Collier – Same OFP as Gillies but due to different reasons. There’s a lot of swinging and missing that goes on with Collier. I timed him from the left side at 3.93 and 3.92 on separate groundouts last week. That’s a 75 runner.
Juan Sosa – The righty reliever was up to 98mph with wiggle but has no secondary pitch that’ll play in the big leagues. Arm slot drops way down during his slider and makes it too easy to ID. He features a changeup as well. Is doesn’t move very much but at least his arm speed is the same. He’s an interesting guy to watch for the velo alone as we move forward.
Kyle Simon– No.
Leandro Castro – He’s playing really well at Triple-A right now and seeing some time in CF thanks to Tyson Gillies’ ineptitude. I’ve got to see more of him there to determine if he fits (though I doubt it). I timed him at 4.44 seconds from the right side which is below average so I’m not sure the range is going to be there unless his instincts for the position can make up a full grade’s worth of speed. He’s tracking balls better now.
Tommy Joseph– Sidelined by a concussion, ToJo is gonna need two years at Triple-A before he might be ready for prime time. The approach needs serious work.
Cesar Hernandez – He’s raking. Well, he’s hitting fastballs, anyway. Saw him turn on a 96mph Allen Webster fastball early this year batting lefty and then last Sunday he took Francisco Liriano deep in a game from the right side. No platoon splits here. Need to see him hit a good breaking ball, though.
Adam Morgan– My #1 prospect in the system before the season, Morgan is clearly working on specific things right now. Mostly, he’s throwing his curveball an awful lot. Gotta see him some more before I write a full report for 2013.
Darin Ruf– He’d probably be less awful against LH pitching than Ryan Howard is right now. I’m not sure that’s worth using a roster spot on. He’ll be a RH shift candidate as soon as teams have enough data on him to deploy it. Haven’t seen him go the other way on the ground yet this year. Most of the hits I’ve seen this year have been grounders pulled through the hole on the left side. Once pitchers and defenses adjust, it’ll be over. If it even starts.