It’s a debatable question. Just which pitcher is the top left-handed pitching prospect in the Phillies system. Whomever it is might be also could be the best pitcher in the Phillies minor league system since both Jonathan Pettibone and Tyler Cloyd remain in the Phillies starting rotation. With Adam Morgan on the disabled list with shoulder problems at AAA, the candidates are Reading’s Jesse Biddle and Clearwater’s Hoby Milner.
In the first inning of Wednesday night’s Clearwater game against the Jupiter Hammerheads, the Threshers ace, Milner, struck out swinging rehabbing Miami Marlin power hitter Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton would go 0 for 3 with a later fly out and ground out in three at bats against Milner.
Hoby worked seven innings giving up only one run and striking out six in a no decision in the game in which the Threshers would lose in a tenth inning walk off home run. Most impressively though in Milner’s last two starts including Wednesday night’s game, he did not walk a batter. In those two games he struck out 13 over 14 innings work.
In addition to Milner’s outstanding command and control he seems to get stronger as the game goes. It is to his credit he has been able to be more dominate the second and third times through the lineups in some of his starts. In the Hammerheads game, he retired the last 12 batters he faced after giving up a lead off single in the fourth inning. The only run scored against him was in the second inning.
I was all set to watch Jesse Biddle pitch last night against the Altoona Curve on Milb-TV before the game was rained out. Milner had just pitched on Wednesday night and I thought it would be a good time to compare them in back to back starts. Biddle is not expected to pitch until Saturday again weather permitting in order to make way for Carlos Zambrano’s rehab assignment start tonight in Reading. Jesse has had several brilliant starts this season including his 7 inning, no run, 16 strike out effort where he gave up only one hit. Also he had a start just two start before the 16 strike out game where he had no strike outs reflecting his up and down season. Hoby had a slow start in the Florida State League, struggling in his first three starts before putting together his run of last nine quality starts.
Milner is about 10 months older than Jesse and was a 7th round draft pick last year by the Phillies. He pitched in college at Texas and is only in his second year in the Phillies system. Biddle came right out of high school and was a first round draft pick in 2010.
Looking back at the last nine starts of both of them Milner has gone 5-0, pitched in 55 innings, giving up 12 earned runs, 10 walks and 53 strike outs for 1.96 ERA at high A. Biddle has gone 2-4 pitched in 49.1 innings, giving up 17 earned runs, 27 walks and 66 strike outs for a 3.10 ERA at AA. With the exception of fewer strike outs and pitching at a lower level, Milner has out pitched Biddle during the last nine starts for each.
In watching both of them in person, Biddle last season and Milner this season, they will pitch someday in the major leagues. Biddle has a better curve ball and Milner has better command and control and is more consistent of late. But comparing the last nine starts of each of them, Hoby Milner has out-pitched Jesse Biddle to challenge Biddle and the injured Adam Morgan for the top spot as the No. 1 left-handed starting pitching prospect in the Phillies system.