For how depressing this year’s Phillies season has been, there hasn’t been much to turn to as far as the organization’s minor league clubs. There is not one team within the franchise, at any level, with a winning record. In addition, there hasn’t been a prospect close to the major league level putting together the type of season that had fans looking toward the future. Instead, most of the team’s most promising young talents have either regressed, or are not yet close to being ready to make an impact at the MLB level.
As far as disappointing prospects are concerned, starter Jesse Biddle has to take the proverbial cake for 2014. After climbing to near the top of the Phillies prospect rankings, the Germantown Friends product regressed in a big way in what was supposed to be a showcase season for him. Biddle was 3-9 in 15 starts with Double-A Reading this season before a 10-run meltdown prompted what the organization called a ‘mental break’ for their 2010 1st round pick.
From there, the future was as murky as ever regarding Biddle. There were rumblings that the lefty had lost his passion for the game and many wondered if he’d be able to re-attain his status of a crucial cog within the Phillies organization. Having been recently activated by Single-A Clearwater, Biddle took a major step in doing so Wednesday night.
— MiLB.com (@MiLB) August 7, 2014
Given the uncertainty regarding the future of the Phillies rotation, Biddle’s return to form is essential if the team hopes to return to contention within the next couple of years. The issues with the 22-year-old have beenmore mental than in terms of his talent level. One would argue that he has the best ‘stuff’ of any starter in the Phillies farm organization and ideally projects to be a 2nd or 3rd starter. Though his 5.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, BB, 5 K line was a promising step, it was some of the stuff Biddle said after the game that should make Phillies fans happy.
“I was really focused on where I want to be, having a concussion and going to rehab for that, 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.”
“I know I want the ball in five days. That’s all I care about, I don’t care where they put me. I don’t care who’s in the box. I want the ball and I want to see what I can do with it.”
Sounds good to me.
Another key fixture in the future of the Phillies pitching staff is 2014 1st round pick Aaron Nola. The LSU product has met little resistance through the minor leagues since the Phillies selected him with the 7th overall pick. After impressing at the Single-A level, Nola was promoted to Reading and made his Double-A debut Wednesday night. As has been the case in pretty much every other one of his starts, Nola was a sight to see.
.@AaronNola10 has wrapped his Double-A debut. His line: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K. 72 pitches, 47 strikes
— Eric Scarcella (@FightinsPR) August 7, 2014
Nola continues to check off the necessary boxes as far as putting the organization’s mind at ease about their 1st round pick. Though his talent level is obvious, Nola carries himself much like an experienced college pitcher should. He has shown the ability to work out of trouble and composes himself on the mound. David Murphy of Philly.com put together a piece on the right-hander after attending Wednesday’s start.
One start at Double A is all it takes to understand why the Phillies were thrilled to make Aaron Nola the No. 7 pick in the June draft. What he lacks in upside, he makes up for in certainty. And for an organization in desperate need of resupply, the 21-year-old righthander is a pitcher they can pencil into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot for 2016 without the projection required with many top prospects. As long as he stays healthy, Nola will have a home in a big-league rotation because he throws strikes, and he does it down in the zone.
Recent seasons have shown what happens when the middle to back-end of a pitching rotation is not up to par. Even as aces like Cole Hamels and a healthy Cliff Lee have dazzled, the Phillies have lost some of the stability in slots 3-4-5 that used to allow them to put together winning streaks. Nola was not drafted to be the savior of a staff, but instead a luxury pitching in the 3rd spot in the rotation.
It’s hard to imagine seeing either one of these pitchers at the big league level before the season ends. For now, it’s best to keep close tabs on these two as they try to round out their minor-league campaigns on high notes.