Aaron and Jesse (Wait, Aaron Paul = Jesse Pinkman…Whoa)
What a night to be alive and a fan of Phillies Minor League baseball. Aaron Nola made his AA debut in Reading in front of a huge contingent of media and a couple members of the Phils’ front office. And Jesse Biddle made his return to starting at Single-A Clearwater after about six weeks on the inactive list and throwing only a couple innings in the rookie Gulf Coast League.
Nola was, by all accounts, quite good, if not dominant. For a guy who was still playing college ball two months ago, and despite it being predicted by professional evaluators the sport over, his rise to Reading and successful night there is pretty remarkable. Nola’s career path seems to be lining up similarly to the Cards’ Michael Wacha, with some work the summer of his draft, and an eye towards a mid-season call up from AAA the following year. If that’s how it turns out, he won’t be on many prospect lists for very long, but to be sure, he’ll be on all of them this winter. I would guess he’s in the 30-50 range most everywhere, but a very strong showing in his AA stint could puff that up some.
I’ve followed Phillies prospects closely for going on six years now, and there’s never been an Aaron Nola in my world. Dom Brown was a big deal, but he moved fairly slowly up the baseball ranks and minor league ranking, as many strong but not elite high school draftees will do. Kyle Drabek and Jarred Cosart were the same before they were traded, and they never looked even close to as sure a thing as Nola does in just two months. I will admit to being sour on Nola for the months leading up to the draft, and even openly hoping the Cubs would pop him at #4 overall instead of Kyle Schwarber, and somehow lead the Phillies to picking someone with a superstar ceiling. In hindsight, at #7, Nola was what you want in the draft – he was the best player available, (Jeff Hoffman and his surgically-repaired elbow notwithstanding). Whether Nola helps them sell tickets in 2015-2016, I couldn’t care less, but he’ll be in his prime the next time this club has a reasonable chance to be competitive in 2017 and forward, and that’s just fine with me.
As for Biddle, we all know the story of his downturn this year. He suffered a concussion after being hit with hail during a wild storm back in May. Last night he no-hit the Daytona Cubs for five innings, allowing just one base runner on a walk. Clearwater stalwart @BaseballBetsy was there last night and documented her thoughts in her blog, including this fine shot of the player, among others:
As I mentioned on PhuturePhillies.com this morning, Biddle faced some real players last night, among them the aforementioned Schwarber and Billy McKinney, last year’s 24th overall pick who came to CHC in the Jeff Samardzija trade. Seeing a guy come back successfully from a bizarre injury and what was sure to be a very serious and difficult emotional time is unlike much else in sports.
We love the comeback story – the extra human element of overcoming something mental or emotional, something other than a broken bone or a strained quad, something that must seem like an unknown to the player – these successes ring out. I want to root for Jesse Biddle, not because he’s on my side, but because right now, he’s going through it like we all do.
“I was really focused on where I want to be, having a concussion and going to rehab for that,” Biddle said. “Then, also, just reconnecting with the game of baseball. I was making it more complicated than it needed to be. I need to keep it simple. That’s the biggest thing, finding myself again on the mound. So far, so good.”Jake Seiner of MiLB.com
Indeed. Kudos, young man. Keep it up.