Former top prospect and Philadelphia native Jesse Biddle was designated for assignment yesterday following a rough start to the 2019 campaign. In what was a somewhat surprising move, the Braves opted to send him packing following an excellent 2018 rookie season. Biddle pitched to a 3.11 ERA (3.88 FIP) with a WHIP of 1.272 and a K/9 of 9.5 over 63 & 2/3 innings pitched in 2018.
2019 has been a different story, however. Before getting DFA’d, Biddle had allowed 7 earned runs, 18 hits and an alarming ten walks in 11 & 2/3 innings pitched. FIP was kinder to him (4.90) but the Braves ultimately felt the need to move on. Biddle’s 40-man roster spot was taken by top prospect Austin Riley, who homered in his debut.
Biddle – 28 in October – was drafted straight out of Germantown Friends School by the Phillies with the 27th overall pick of the 2010 draft. For much of his early career, he was consistently ranked as one of, if not the top prospect in the Phillies organization.
Sadly, when it came time to produce at the AA and AAA level, Biddle found himself marred by inconsistency and bad luck. For example, the left-hander was the victim of one of the most bizarre injuries of all time back in 2014. Biddle was hit in the head by a large piece of hail, diagnosed with a concussion and never got back on track afterwards. He ended up going 0-5 with a 9.82 ERA in his next five starts with AA Reading and had more struggles in the following season.
Between the two highest levels of the minors in 2015, Biddle worked to an ERA just below five with a record of 9-6 before an elbow issue sidetracked him. Unfortunately, the lefty underwent Tommy John surgery following the 2015 season and missed all of 2016.
With the Phillies inching back towards contention, an inevitable roster crunch arose and Biddle ended up being DFA’d. He was claimed by the Pirates in February of 2016, traded for Yoervis Medina (who never played for the Phillies) and was then shipped off to Atlanta less than a month later.
It wasn’t until 2017 that Jesse Biddle pitched again. He made the most of his opportunity and ended up having an impressive year with Atlanta’s AA affiliate. He opened 2018 in AAA but didn’t stay there long, however, as Biddle made his long-awaited MLB debut on April 21, 2018.
Could A Biddle Reunion Be In The Cards?
One of the most talked about needs headed into the 2019 Phillies season was left-handed relief help. That talk has since subsided with the surprising emergence of Adam Morgan, who didn’t allow a run until May 4th. Morgan allowed two runs in that game but hasn’t allowed any more. He has also worked around stranded runners and looks like a completely different pitcher.
As for the other lefty in the bullpen, Jose Alvarez has since been pitching better following a brutal start. After allowing 8 runs in as many appearances, Alvarez has yet to allow an earned run since April 19. However, a few of these outings were garbage time appearances and while he has brought his ERA down from 7.20 to 4.70; his season FIP still stands at 5.19.
Beyond Alvarez, the team has moved Austin Davis between the MLB and AAA more than once. Davis has gone 6 innings over three appearances, remarkably allowing one run with a WHIP of 1.833. If Davis continues to allow base-runners at that clip, he will allow runs. Period.
Outside of the success Adam Morgan has enjoyed, the Phillies still look rather thin in terms of left-handed pitching. They could perhaps turn to Ranger Suarez or maybe even put Cole Irvin in the pen at some point, but looking outside the organization remains a possibility.
Of course, the Phillies are in first place and enjoy a good record, which means that other clubs will have a shot at Biddle first. It is entirely possible, likely even that a rebuilding team takes a shot on a 27 year old left-hander who looked like a possible late inning option.
If The Chance Is There, They Should Take It
If the chance does arise, however, I think snagging him would be a great move. Most of his walks came over a ten day stretch that preceded his injury. A lower FIP than ERA is always promising and at just 27, he has plenty of upside as a late inning reliever.
As solid as Morgan has been, his track record to this point has been less than stellar so even he isn’t a sure thing. Biddle isn’t either and if he continues to walk batters, he wont be an asset at all. That said, when it gets down to it, Jesse Biddle has a floor of Jose Alvarez and a ceiling of Adam Morgan. I would take Jesse Biddle over Alvarez or Davis in a heartbeat and I think Matt Klentak would too.