It can be an inspiring story: Hometown product gets taken by his team, rises up through the Minors and returns home as a big league hero.
It also can be a recipe for disaster: Hometown product gets taken by his team, struggles with the added expectations of returning home a hero and never fulfills his potential.
The Phillies' first-round pick from the 2010 Draft, Jesse Biddle, plans on following the first script. Philadelphia born and raised and a graduate of Germantown Friends School, the No. 27 overall pick is beyond excited to be a part of the team he's rooted for growing up.
"Playing for your hometown team is kind of a dream come true," Biddle said. "Every day I get to go out wearing the Phillies P. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to my family and it means a lot to my friends. That's why I play this game."
Intentions are all well and good. But with everyone back home waiting for him to live out that dream, it can force a young player to try to do too much, too soon. Biddle, after all, is just 19 and there's been more than one teenager -- in baseball and out -- to crumble under such scrutiny. "A lot of people believe that will put extra pressure on me," Biddle said. "But when you think about it, hopefully, whenever I play in Lakewood, I'll only be an hour and a half away from my house. I'll only be an hour and a half away from my friends and family who I've been around my whole life. When they're in the stands cheering me on, when they can come see me whenever I need to and I can go see them, I don't see how that can be any pressure.
"There are people down in Spring Training who just came to see the Phillies, but I'm also here. It's pretty awesome when you have such a great support system around you. It makes you feel a lot less pressure. I don't know what I would do without it."
Lakewood is Lakewood, New Jersey, home of the Phillies' first full-season stop, in the South Atlantic League. No assignments have been announced yet, but Biddle's solid debut last summer, when he got in 43 2/3 pro innings, along with his poise and maturity, puts him in a good position to break camp with that team.
It's a pattern the Phillies have followed before. Last year, they sent Brody Colvin to Lakewood; in 2009, Trevor May had success there. If Biddle follows suit, he'll get the opportunity to experience the challenge of the long Minor League season right away.
"There's really no way to prepare yourself for that," Biddle said. "It's such a long season and there's so many innings I'm going to have to throw that there's really no way to be able to say whether you're going to be able to handle it until you're in the middle of it. But the Phillies do a great job [with] a lot of shoulder stretches, a lot of conditioning and a lot of preparing you for something that... as a player I've never been through it, but they've been through it with thousands of players."
Phillies' Top 10 Prospects
1. Domonic Brown, OF: There was no guarantee that Brown would be the Phillies' right fielder on Opening Day, but the Phillies were looking forward to watching him compete. That ended before it started as he broke his right hand. The No. 4 overall prospect on MLB.com's Top 50 prospect list -- and No. 3 on the outfield top 10 -- will be back. While it might take a little more time, his tools -- power, speed, plus throwing arm -- should find a place in right field, soon after he's healthy.
2. Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF: The 2009 high school draftee had an extremely productive first full season, being named the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Major League prospect. He should hit for average and power and has a good approach at the plate. Although he was ranked No. 4 among first base prospects, the Phillies have moved Singleton to the outfield to avoid the Ryan Howard roadblock. He's taken to it better than expected. He'll man left field in Clearwater to start the 2011 season.
3. Jarred Cosart, RHP: When healthy, the 2008 Draft pick has electric stuff, with one of the better fastballs in the Minors and a very good curve. He's lean and projectable with good command of his stuff, though his changeup, as with many young pitchers, is behind the other offerings. The bigger issue has been staying injury-free. In 2009, it was his back and shoulder. Last year, his season ended at the end of June with a bad elbow. He's healthy now and could move up to Clearwater.
WHEN WILL THEY ARRIVE?
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4. Brody Colvin, RHP: Another of the intriguing young arms in this system, Colvin shook off a rough start to his first full season and finished with the fourth lowest ERA and fourth highest strikeout total in the organization. He has a plus fastball, a very good curve and a changeup better than most at his stage. His delivery is a bit unusual, but improving. He should be a part of a pretty good rotation in Clearwater to start the season.
5. Sebastian Valle, C: The Lakewood BlueClaws had the best team ERA in the South Atlantic League and won the title. Valle played an integral part, handling the pitching staff well and hitting a big three-run home run in the final game of the championship series. He's got good bat speed and should hit for power, though he needs to get a little more selective as he advances. He's got a strong arm and moves well behind the plate. He'll get to continue working with those young arms in Clearwater.
6. Jesse Biddle, LHP: The hometown kid with the big left arm had a solid pro debut, even pitching well in a few New York-Penn League starts before the end of the summer. Big and strong, he's got the chance to have a plus fastball and changeup and has the makings of a very good curve as well. He might have a ways to go, but his work ethic and makeup should allow Biddle to start figuring it out fairly quickly, starting in full-season Lakewood.
7. Trevor May, RHP: The 2008 fourth-round pick took a little step backward in 2010, having to go back down to Lakewood after struggling in Clearwater. The good news is he got straightened out and helped the BlueClaws win their second straight title. He's got a terrific three-pitch mix that led to 182 strikeouts, tops in the system and third in the Minors. He also walked 81, though he improved his command after his demotion. He'll pitch all year, giving Clearwater another try, at age 21.
8. Aaron Altherr, OF: The Phillies have long liked toolsy athletes such as Altherr. The 2009 ninth rounder has moved slowly, but performed well in the Gulf Coast and NY-Penn Leagues in 2010. He showed an ability to make hard, consistent contact, and most feel he'll grow into more power. He's got good raw speed and is learning how to use it. At 6-foot-5 he looks like he'll best be suited for an outfield corner as he plays full-season ball for the first time in 2011.
9. Cesar Hernandez, 2B: Signed out of Venezuela back in 2006, Hernandez spent his first two summers playing in his home country. He made a solid, if unspectacular, United States debut in 2009, but really jumped on the prospect map last year, when he was a NY-Penn League All-Star. The No. 7 second base prospect finished sixth in the batting race and second in steals. He's now ready to join yet another talented Lakewood squad.
10. Justin De Fratus, RHP: The 2007 draftee began his pro career as a starter, but a move to the bullpen in 2009 has put him on a faster track and he pitched at two levels in 2010. He's got good command of a lively fastball and a slider which is inconsistent, but has the chance to be a good offering. He goes right after hitters and likes getting the ball in big situations. After pitching for Team USA and then in the Arizona Fall League, he was put on the 40-man roster and should get the chance to help the big club out at some point in 2011.
Under the Radar
Austin Hyatt, RHP: A 15th round pick in 2009 out of the University of Alabama, Hyatt doesn't get as much attention with all the young power arms in the system. All he did in his first full season, though, was win Florida State League Most Valuable Pitcher honors while tying for the system lead in wins and finishing second in strikeouts and ERA. He's got a good changeup and excellent command, but his pure stuff doesn't grade out that highly. Let's see how his pitchability plays in Double-A.
Matt Rizzotti, 1B: A 23rd round pick in 2007 out of Manhattan College, Rizzotti looked more like an organizational filler than anything heading into 2010. Then he played at three levels, reaching Triple-A and winning the organization's batting title with his .343 average. He knows how to get on base (.430 OBP) and even went on to hit .333 in the AFL. He's blocked by Howard, but his bat was added to the 40-man roster this offseason.
Hitter of the Year -- Singleton
With his strong approach at the plate, Singleton will continue to have productive at-bats, hit for average and start tapping into his power even more. Look for him to be among the system's leaders in all three triple crown categories.
Pitcher of the Year -- Cosart
He'll put the injuries behind him in 2011 and lead that talented Clearwater staff -- and the system -- in strikeouts and ERA.