While left-hander Jesse Biddle ranked third in the Eastern League last season with 154 strikeouts in 138 1/3 innings, he also led the league with 82 walks. Partially so he could work on his control, the Phillies sent him back to Double-A Reading to begin this season.
So far, the results have been much better for Biddle, the Phils' No. 2 prospect. In seven starts this season, he has a 3.43 ERA and ranks second in the league with 45 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings. Perhaps most encouragingly, Biddle has walked 15 batters, an average of two fewer walks per nine innings.
Biddle, who is ranked No. 49 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list, will face a stern test Friday when Reading takes on Trenton. The Thunder feature the Yankees' top two prospects in catcher Gary Sanchez and center fielder Mason Williams.
Sanchez, ranked No. 43 on the Top 100, is hitting .269/.352/.454 with four home runs in 28 games this season. Williams (No. 69) has struggled this season. He is hitting .198/.291/.275 with five stolen bases in 32 games.
Trenton's scheduled starter is left-hander Manny Banuelos, the Yanks' No. 12 prospect. He appeared to be on the cusp of the Major Leagues during Spring Training in 2012. Soon after, however, Banuelos underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the next two seasons.
Banuelos is now healthy again and working his way back to New York. Friday will be his third start for Trenton after beginning the season with advanced Class A Tampa. In 18 2/3 innings this season, Banuelos has a 2.89 ERA and has struck out 21 batters and walked three.
The game, which begins at 7:05 p.m. ET, can be seen on MiLB.TV.
Though Sanchez, ranked as the No. 3 catcher in the Minor Leagues, is scuffling, Austin Hedges, the top-ranked Minor League catcher, is getting hot. The Padres' No. 1 prospect is on an eight-game hitting streak, raising his batting average nearly 40 points to .252 on the season. Hedges will look to extend that streak on MiLB.TV when Double-A San Antonio visits Midland at 8 p.m. ET.
In addition to Biddle, several other pitchers ranked in the Top 100 are scheduled to start Friday, including Jon Gray (No. 13), Kyle Crick (No. 30), Allen Webster (No. 42), Rafael Montero (No. 78) and Trey Ball (No. 89). Fans can watch all but Crick on MiLB.TV, beginning with Webster and Triple-A Pawtucket taking on Louisville at 6:35 p.m. ET.
Top prospect probables
Jeff Ames (Rays' No. 15), Charlotte vs. Bradenton
Chris Anderson (Dodgers' No. 5), Rancho Cucamonga at Lake Elsinore
Alec Asher (Rangers' No. 11), Frisco vs. Corpus Christi
Trey Ball (Red Sox's No. 7), Greenville vs. Greensboro
Manny Banuelos (Yankees' No. 12), Trenton vs. Reading
Jesse Biddle (Phillies' No. 2), Reading at Trenton
Christian Binford (Royals' No. 11), Wilmington vs. Lynchburg
Corey Black (Cubs' No. 16), Tennessee vs. Birmingham
Ian Clarkin (Yankees' No. 8), Charleston at Rome
Kyle Crick (Giants' No. 1), Richmond vs. Erie
Chase DeJong (Blue Jays' No. 13), Lansing at West Michigan
Rafael DePaula (Yankees' No. 16), Tampa vs. Lakeland
Edwin Diaz (Mariners' No. 4), Clinton vs. Peoria
Amir Garrett (Reds' No. 20), Dayton vs. Fort Wayne
J.R. Graham (Braves' No. 6), Mississippi at Mobile
Jon Gray (Rockies' No. 1), Tulsa at Arkansas
Jorge Lopez (Brewers' No. 20), Brevard County vs. Daytona
Rafael Montero (Mets' No. 2), Las Vegas at Salt Lake
Ariel Pena (Brewers' No. 18), Nashville at Colorado Springs
Carlos Salazar (Braves' No. 14), Rome vs. Charleston
Sam Selman (Royals' No. 12), Northwest Arkansas vs. Springfield
Kyle Smith (Astros' No. 19), Corpus Christi at Frisco
Chris Stratton (Giants' No. 7), San Jose vs. Inland Empire
Jose Urena (Marlins' No. 8), Jacksonville at Montgomery
Vincent Velasquez (Astros' No. 9), Lancaster at High Desert
Allen Webster (Red Sox's No. 6), Pawtucket at Louisville
Kevin Ziomek (Tigers' No. 14), West Michigan vs. Lansing