Thursday, August 27, 2015

Could Jesse Biddle Become a Phillies September Rotation Option?

With the Phillies rapidly running out of time in the 'Dog Days' of August, a calendar change to the month of September could bring some changes to the starting pitching rotation as the team moves through the final five weeks of the 2015 season.
To this point, 13 different pitchers have received at least one starting assignment in the Phillies rotation: Aaron Harang (22), Jerome Williams (21), Cole Hamels (20), Sean O'Sullivan (13), Adam Morgan (11), David Buchanan (10), Aaron Nola (7), Chad Billingsley (7), Severino Gonzalez (7), Kevin Correia (5), Jerad Eickhoff (2), Dustin McGowan (1), Phillippe Aumont (1).
Many fans have grown weary of the sight of Harang and Williams parading out to the mound. The two journeymen are here for no other reason than to soak up innings. They are in no way connected to the hoped-for brighter future that everyone wants to see get underway sooner, rather than later.
With the team having turned the page on the past with the trades of Chase UtleyCole Hamels, and Jimmy Rollins since the end of 2014, not to mention both Jonathan Papelbon and Ben Revere, there is a growing impatience for that future.
If nothing else, the appearance at Citizens Bank Park this week of the first place New York Mets and their vaunted young pitching rotation is a reminder of just how quickly the fortunes of a team can turn around when a strong group of arms is brought along to tame the opposition.
The Phillies had a few good prospect arms already in their system, and with the draft and trade acquisitions of the last year, those options have grown into a legitimate stable of promising young hurlers. But how many of the youngsters might actually be ready to help in the big leagues, sooner rather than later?
While fans, including me, would much rather see young, MLB-ready or near-ready arms such as 21-year olds Jake Thompson and Zach Eflin, or 23-year olds Alec Asher and Ben Lively, in the September rotation instead of Harang or Williams, the facts would not seem to make such a thing preferable.
None of those pitchers is currently on the 40-man roster. In order to bring them up, the Phillies would need to drop someone from that roster. 
While it could be argued that they could drop Harang or Williams, or some other player such as Domonic Brown, and not be hurt, that simply is not likely.
The bottom line on such a move is, as Phillies prospect expert Matt Winkelman pointed out last week, unnecessary.
The facts are that this is a completely lost season, and the Phillies have enough healthy options on the current 25-man and 40-man rosters to finish out the season. However, when we examine that 40-man roster, it does include one intiguing name.
23-year old lefty Jesse Biddle was the Phillies 1st round pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, the 27th overall selection that year. 
In the five years since, Biddle's rise through the club's farm system has been in fits and starts. Without going through all the histrionics, let's bring him to the present.
In 2015, Biddle has made 23 starts across two levels at AA and AAA. In 120.2 innings he has allowed 137 hits, and has an 87-59 K:BB ratio. 
These are in no way eye-popping or even confidence-inspiring numbers. There is no way that Biddle has "earned" his way to the Big Leagues at this point.
Phillies current GM Ruben Amaro was recently quoted by Jim Salisbury on the possibility of a Biddle look in September: “He’s been talked about,” Amaro said. “He hasn’t performed well enough to be considered yet, but you never know.
However, he has a couple of things in his favor. He is on that 40-man roster already. He is age and level-appropriate for such a promotion. He was a #1 draft pick of the organization. He is a Philly native who would make a nice public relations story, at least for a short time.
The likelihood of anyone getting called up from AA Reading is slim. The Fightin' Phils are in the playoffs, which will begin the 2nd week of September. No one is going to be made available from that roster until the final two weeks of the MLB season, if at all.
The Phillies are indeed looking at the workload of youngsters Nola, Morgan, and Eickhoff. They are frankly much more likely to try to get through the season mixing that trio with the two vets in Harang and Williams, and subbing in both Gonzalez and Buchanan over the final weeks.
With those seven arms the most likely to make up a Phillies rotation in the 2015 season's final month, if you want to look for a dark horse candidate to emerge from among the young guns in the minor leagues, Jesse Biddle might just be the one to actually get that shot.

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