Player: Jesse Biddle
Date of Scouting Report: 1/14/17
Age: 25 in 2017
How Acquired: Claimed off waivers (PIT, 3/19/16)
Years Before Free Agency: 5
Years Before Arbitration: 2
A former first rounder of the Phillies, the Philadelphia-native became a top prospect in their system before struggles in 2014 at the Double-A level soured some on him. Before that year, he garnered Top 100 Prospect love from multiple publications after a breakout 2011 in the South Atlantic League with a 2.98 ERA, 3.71 FIP, and 22.4% strikeout rate. He struggled again in 2015 before missing all of the next year with Tommy John surgery. The Phils moved him to the Pirates and shortly after, Pittsburgh waived him in hopes of sneaking him off their 40-man roster. Atlanta pounced and he spent the year on their disabled list.
Offensive Observations and Grades:
As a pitcher, opportunities are slim in the minors to do much of anything. In 48 plate appearances at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, he had seven hits (.167), including three doubles. He's also struck out 15 times to just two walks. With four sacrifice bunts, he's within the average of how frequently a pitcher turns a plate appearance into a sacrifice bunt (8%-10%). Unsurprisingly, he has never attempted a stolen base. Without a significantly higher sample size, I won't provide any grades.
Pitching Observations and Grades:
A left-handed pitcher, Biddle is tall at 6'6" and uses his height well to get good extension to the plate. His wind-up appears effortless and he keeps his ball well-hidden, especially against left-handed hitters. He incorporates a high leg kick out of the wind-up and with his extension, the ball appears to jump at the hitter. Biddle pushes his weight back to bring everything forward with a high 3/4's delivery. From the stretch, he holds runners well and is fairly quick to the plate.
Velocity-wise, Biddle sits in the low-90's with his fastball, which he does get good downward sink to. As a result, his groundball rate has hovered in the 46% area and climbed notably in 2015 after using more two-seam, sinking fastballs. Biddle's inconsistent command has kept his fastballs from flourishing as table setters for his other pitches. Though his delivery is effortless, he struggles to finish and consistently delivery the fastball from the same release point.
Biddle's curveball can be his path to the majors, though he can sometimes lose feel for it. It's a slow breaking pitch that the hitter can give up on too soon. Biddle has to locate it or it will get beat up badly. When trying to throw with more velocity, the curve loses break and gets smacked. Hitters locate it well, but if Biddle is on, the curve will still create a good deal of pop-ups and whiffs.
Biddle also has a slider that bites into right-handed hitters. It's not nearly as good as his curveball, but generates enough late movement to be useful in limited action. Finally, Biddle's fourth pitch is his change-up, which has plus potential. Some of the same issues with his fastball remain as he can struggle with the pitch's finish. Nevertheless, with a better feel and understanding of when to throw the change, it could be one of his best weapons.
Grades from a 20-80 Scale...Velocity (55), Movement (60), Control (50)
Potential Grades...Velocity (55), Movement (65), Control (60)
Individual Pitch Grades...Fastball (50), Curveball (55), Slider (40), Changeup (55)
Potential Individual Pitch Grades...Fastball (55), Curveball (65), Slider (45), Changeup (60)
Other Grades...Holding Runners (65), Speed to the Plate (60)
Defensive Observations and Grades:
A good athlete on the mound, Biddle's motion sends him third base-side, leaving him vulnerable to balls to the right side of the infield. It's impossible to grade his defense at this point, but it does not appear to be a negative.
After a lost year to injury and rehab, it's difficult to project much from Biddle until we know how he comes back. That said, Biddle could carve out a nice career as a left-hand reliever on the low side or a bottom-of-the-rotation arm with some upside if higher-end projections are to be believed. Right now, he needs to re-establish himself as a prospect.
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