It was really only a matter of time until Jesse Biddle’s time ended in Philadelphia. The former 1st round pick has had a rough go of it since being drafted by his hometown team in 2010. On and off the field he fell victim to a list of maladies that reads more like a list of Biblical plagues than an injury report — in addition to elbow injury he has had a major concussion caused by hail, pertussis, and plantar fascitis all without missing much time. He faced criticism for his performance, he faced derogatory comments about his mental state from the Phillies’ FO while recovering from a bad concussion. Biddle showed his frustration at times, mostly at himself for not fulfilling his lifelong dreams and living up to his own talent. Now he will get the chance to start fresh, with a new arm and a new team as he looks to get back on the road towards his dreams.
For the Phillies, the new FO has no loyalty or connection to Jesse Biddle, they did not draft him, they did not develop him, and they weren’t the ones that held on to him when his name came up in trade talks. The new Matt Klentak/Andy MacPhail lead FO has placed an emphasis on pitching, and Jesse Biddle never seemed to be a part of that future. I personally did not rank Jesse in my Top 50 prospects in the organization because of his injury time and future risk, but more on that later. That Top 50 had 20 pitchers on it, 16 of them should be starting games during the 2016 season. You add that to 7 starting pitchers who are major leaguers and did not qualify for the list and you have an organization that was primed to leave Biddle behind. While I may not agree with who they kept on the 40 man roster over him, it seemed like his days were numbered. Yoervis Medina is no great pitcher, he has been handed around baseball a lot this past year, with the Pirates finally getting him off the 40 man roster. To the Phillies he is another live armed righty, who has the added bonus of not taking up a 40 man roster spot.
As for Biddle, Pittsburgh offers a great landing spot. Before he can get to work with pitching guru Ray Searage, Biddle will need to get healthy. His recovery from Tommy John surgery will give him plenty of time to get healthy, but it also means he may do nothing more than throw a few pitches off of a mound in a Florida complex during the 2016 season. At his best, Biddle showed a straight fastball at 89-92 that could touch 94, an above average changeup, an above average curveball, and a plus slider. The slider is the real reason to dream on Biddle having a major league role someday. The pitch was reintroduced in 2015 and showed good movement and bite, and unlike his curveball he was able to throw it with the same delivery and motion as his fastball. If the Pirates can get him healthy, he has a chance to be a solid reliever prospect on the fastball and slider alone. To be a starting pitcher it will be a much longer road as his delivery will need work in its consistency, so that he can begin to show major league average command and control. The Pirates have taken in much less talent and come out with value, but this will be a difficult project for them.
It is a sad goodbye for Biddle who had a chance to pitch for his hometown team and be part of their bright future. For his sake I hope he can find success in Pittsburgh and that he can avoid more freak injuries. The Phillies are giving up a lot of upside in this deal, but there is a point with every player where you need to ask whether that upside is something you can bring out. The Phillies get a player who could be an afterthought or an interesting bullpen piece for their future.
Photo by Chris LaBarge