Scouting Reports: Maikel Franco and Jesse Biddle

I spent four days watching the Trenton Thunder play the Reading Phillies last weekend, and I’ve been too busy/lazy to report my thoughts. I’m starting to fall behind, and so I’ve decided to publish only some of my thoughts from the series. The rest of the reports will be made available later, perhaps when it comes time to do a top prospect ranking for both Yankees and Phillies prospects.

Today, I offer up my thoughts on two of the Phillies’ top prospects.

Maikel Franco is going to be an above-average player in the major leagues. I’ve felt this way for quite some time, and my most recent look re-affirms my feelings. He’s got plus-plus bat speed and tremendous plate coverage. His set is relatively quiet, although there is some subtle load in the hands. Franco’s path to the ball is fluid and he shows the ability to crush mistakes. I do worry a little about how he’s going to handle movement low in the strike zone, but I’ve also seen him make adjustments in the past.

Defensively, national writers have raised concern about Franco’s ability to stay at third base. I can see the concerns, but I also see a player with natural instincts at the position. His body suggests that he could end up on the opposite side of the infield, but I don’t believe that the body will force him off the position immediately. He’s mobile enough to make plays to both sides and I’ve seen him come in on the bunt down the line scenario without issues. In fact, he shows excellent control of bulky frame. Franco’s arm is an easy plus, if not plus-plus, weapon. The body is likely to change, but until then I have no problem giving him a fringe grade at the hot corner.

Grades: Present/Future

Hit: 40/55

Power: 50/60

Run: 30/30

Arm: 65/65

Glove: 40/45

I’ve spoken to a lot of people about Jesse Biddle over the past 12 months, and recently I’ve heard more “this is a serious dude” comments. When I researched him last offseason, the reviews were mixed; some thought of him as more of a back-end piece, while others saw a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. It’s taken me a few days to digest, but I now find myself comfortably believing that Biddle’s future is as a no. 3 starter.

This is a serious dude. From the left side, Biddle gets strong downhill plane on a fastball that sits 91-93. His changeup looks identical to his fastball out of his hand, but checks in in the 79-81 window. The curveball is tight and sits in the low 70s with plus depth. He commands every pitch exceptionally well, and mixes very well. Biddle has very good feel for his changeup, and isn’t afraid to throw it in fastball counts. He makes hitters uncomfortable in the box. In the video above you’ll see him gets swings and misses with every pitch.

There are things to work on. The fastball doesn’t often have much run to it, and the changeup could have more dip to it. The curveball isn’t always as tight as you’d like. Still, he’s 21 years young and his stuff is very refined.

Mechanically speaking, Biddle’s delivery is a thing of beauty. He throws from a 3/4 arm slot and repeats his delivery very well. His leg kick is high and quick and he creates excellent momentum into foot strike. Biddle keeps his hips closed and gets his back side over the top without looking uncomfortable. He’s perfectly balanced and has excellent posture.

Behind home plate charting one day, Biddle not only signed an autograph for a young child, but asked the family how they were doing and made sure they were enjoying their time at the game. I’ve heard things about him getting to the field extremely early to work on his hitting. He just gets it.

Grades: Present/Future

Fastball: 55/60

Changeup: 60/60

Curveball: 55/60

Mechanics: 65/65

Pitchability: 60/60

OFP: 60

Future Role: No. 3 starter who logs 200+ innings per season.

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