These choices were easy decisions. Both 21 year old ace left-handed pitcher Jesse Biddle for Reading and 20 year old power hitting third baseman Maikel France were my picks for April players of the month for April in the Phillies organization.
Biddle pitched to an earned run average of 1.74 in his five starts in the month. He went 2-1 with 40 strike outs in 31 innings. Opponents only hit .114 against him. Even more remarkable in the four starts that Cameron Rupp was his catcher, Jesse was 2-0 in 25 innings giving up only two runs on eight hits and struck out 40. His ERA in those four starts was a minuscule 0.72.
One of the real pleasures so far this season has been watching Maikel Franco bat. He led the Florida State League with 25 runs batted in during the month and in doubles with 12. And for good measure he put one of them up on the far side of the Tiki Bar roof in left at Brighthouse. He hit .361 with runners in scoring position with five homers. What I enjoyed just as much as his hitting was watching how he played third base. He has soft hands that allows him to make bare handed throws and and a strong arm that gets the runners in close plays at first.
Both Biddle, a first round draft pick from the City, and Franco, an international free agent from the Dominican Republican, joined the Phillies in 2010. They are advancing rapidly up the chain. We watched Biddle last year for the Clearwater Threshers where he started the season as the No. 3 in the rotation behind Adam Morgan and Brody Colvin. This season he started as the No.2 starter behind David Buchanan at Reading. No one can deny though he is the No. 1 starting pitching prospect in the Phillies system. When I first noticed Franco in 2010 I saw him with a catcher’s mitt. Then later in the minor league camp a wild throwing third baseman on Ashburn Field. Now he is becoming quickly major league ready with the bat and at third base.
The first month of the five month minor league season has not been kind to the Phillies organization for the most part. As May begins no Phillies minor league team is over .500. The pitching staffs are struggling at AAA, high A and low A but it is not whether you win or lose in the minor leagues but it is about developing major league ready impact players. Jesse Biddle and Maikel Franco will soon be doing just that at Citizens Bank Park.