Phillies invite Franco, Biddle to major league camp

Posted: January 10, 2014

THE PHILLIES' top hitting and pitching prospects will report to Clearwater with the major league team next month.

Power-hitting third-base prospect Maikel Franco and locally bred lefthander Jesse Biddle were formally invited to major league camp by the team yesterday. Phillies pitchers and catchers officially report to camp on Feb. 12, while the first full-squad workout will be held on Feb. 18.

In addition to Franco and Biddle, catcher Sebastian Valle, lefthanded pitcher Mario Hollands and righthander Ken Giles also received major league invites.

At least one of those five players will expect to come to camp competing for a major league job: Franco.

The righthanded-hitting Franco, 21, won the Paul Owens Award for the organization's best minor league player in September. Franco, who represented the Phillies at the MLB Futures Game in New York in July, hit .320 with a .926 OPS, 31 home runs and 103 RBI in 134 games between Class A Clearwater and Double A Reading in 2013.

"I definitely expect that," Franco said in September of competing for a major league job. "I'm going to come in working hard to gain a spot, for sure."

Franco's main competition at third base is the sure-handed and lefthanded-hitting Cody Asche. The 23-year-old Asche only made his big-league debut on July 30.

Franco is viewed by many as the long-awaited, homegrown, righthanded power threat that will add balance to a lefthanded heavy lineup in the near future.

Biddle, meanwhile, could also be a remedy to the Phillies' shortage of major league-ready starting pitching at some point in 2014. The 22-year-old Biddle also went to the Future Games, striking out Franco in a memorable Phillies prospect showdown.

Biddle, 22, was mostly inconsistent in 2013.

He went 5-14 with a 3.64 ERA in 27 starts at Double A Reading. While he had dazzling strikeout numbers (154 in 138 1/3 innings), Biddle also walked 82 batters and had a 1.35 WHIP.

Biddle was the Phillies' first pick (27th overall) in 2010 out of Germantown Friends.

A former popular Phillies player earned a promotion when the Phillies finalized their player development staff.

Mickey Morandini, who spent the last three seasons as the manager at Low A Lakewood, will join the coaching staff at Triple A Lehigh Valley in 2014. Morandini spent parts of nine seasons with the Phillies as a player, platooning at second base with Mariano Duncan on the 1993 NL championship team and representing the team at the All-Star Game in 1995.

Morandini will work on an IronPigs staff with manager Dave Brundage, coach Sal Rende and pitching coach Ray Burris. Dusty Wathan returns for his third season as Double A Reading's manager while Ramon Hernandez, who last served as a manager in 1996, will take over managing duties at Class A Clearwater.

Meanwhile, Greg Lee replaces Morandini as Lakewood's manager and Nelson Prada returns for his second season as the manager at short-season Williamsport. One of the coaches on Prada's staff is Shawn Williams, the son of former Phillies bench coach Jimy Williams.


On Twitter: @ryanlawrence21

Blog: ph.ly/HighCheese

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