Franco, Biddle land on Top 100 Prospects list
Corner infielder comes in at No. 26, while left-handed starter is ranked 53rd
PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies are counting on their aging core to get them back to the postseason in 2014.
But they also need their top prospects to step up at some point. Two of them earned spots in MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects rankings: infielder Maikel Franco, who is 26th; and left-hander Jesse Biddle, who is 53rd.
The annual ranking of baseball's biggest and brightest young talent is assembled by MLBPipeline.com Draft and prospect experts Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis, who compile input from industry sources, including scouts and scouting directors. It is based on analysis of players' skill sets, upsides, proximity to the Majors and potential immediate impact to their teams. The list, which is one of several prospect rankings on MLBPipeline.com's Prospect Watch, only includes players with rookie status in 2014.
General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said Franco will compete with Cody Asche this spring for a job at third base, although Asche is considered the heavy favorite. But Franco also will see time at first base, as the Phils try to find a place for Franco to play.
"They told me, 'I want you to play first base and third base, too,'" Franco said. "And I said, 'I'll take that opportunity and I'll do whatever you want me to do.'"
Franco started 25 games at first base this winter for Gigantes del Cibao in winter ball in the Dominican Republic, compared to 22 at third base.
"I think it's important for us that we get him reps at both spots," Phillies director of player development Joe Jordan said. "We're not looking for him to take over Ryan Howard's position. We're just looking for an option, if we need it. He's going to be very proficient at first base. It's just a matter of getting more experienced over there."
The Phils are working Franco at first base because of his tremendous potential at the plate. He hit .299 with 16 home runs and 52 RBIs in 65 games last season with Class A Advanced Clearwater, and .339 with 15 homers and 51 RBIs in 69 games with Double-A Reading. Overall, Franco hit .320 with 31 homers and 103 RBIs in 134 games.
Biddle will open the season with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but if he pitches well in Spring Training and early in the season with the IronPigs, he could get a promotion if there is a breakdown in the big league rotation. He went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA last season with Reading, but battled whooping cough and plantar fasciitis in his left foot.
Biddle also battled maturity issues.
"It was huge for my growth, really," Biddle said of those setbacks. "My maturity went through the roof. I was really, really immature in some ways handling my illnesses, handling some of the adversity I was facing. There were a lot of times I failed last year, and I didn't handle it the right way. There are some things I really want to grow up on and want to improve, and that's why I'm here, that's why I'm working."
Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.