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Biddle's climb is special

The Baseball America list of top 10 Phillies prospects was released Monday and, for the first time, Jesse Biddle tops the magazine's rankings.

It would be difficult to find someone who disagreed with that selection. A year ago at this time, he ranked second behind Trevor May. Even if May had not been part of the trade that brought in center fielder Ben Revere from Minnesota, Biddle would still deserve the top ranking.

In fact, the 21-year-old lefty has a chance to become one of the best baseball stories in Philadelphia history. It's rare for a kid to be drafted by his hometown team and then become a star for that team. There is pressure on every first-round draft pick in every sport and it increases when that first-round pick is a local kid because of the added attention.

Biddle, a first-round pick out of Germantown Friends School in 2010, has so far climbed the minor-league ladder with remarkable aplomb and professionalism.

His three-year professional record is 21-15 with a 3.21 ERA. He has allowed 273 hits, walked 140 and struck out 325 batters in 319 1/3 innings. All of those numbers have been accomplished at minor-league levels where the players were typically older and more experienced.

In his first two full minor-league seasons, Biddle also overcame slow starts, which is also a positive sign for a young pitcher. Sometimes a snowball can become a boulder when things start rolling downhill for inexperienced players, but Biddle did not allow that to happen.

The 2013 season with the double-A Reading Fightin Phils should provide a great challenge for Biddle because of the close proximity to his home and the elevated level of competition. If he continues to excel at this level, it's conceivable that Biddle could pitch in Philadelphia as soon as September.

Here is the full Baseball America list and a link to its story:

Player                       Pos.               2012 Teams                               2012 Stats

1. Jesse Biddle            LHP                 High-A Clearwater                        10-6, 3.22 ERA

2. Roman Quinn          SS                  Rookie Williamsport                       .281, 56 runs, 30 steals

3. Tommy Joseph        C                    AA Richmond and Reading             .257, 11 HRs, 48 RBIs

4. Jonathan Pettibone  RHP                 AA Reading, AAA Lehigh Valley      13-8, 3.10 ERA

5. Adam Morgan         LHP                 High-A Clearwater, AA Reading       8-11, 3.35 ERA

6. Ethan Martin           RHP                 AA Chattanooga and Reading         13-6, 3.48 ERA

7. Cody Asche            3B                   High-A Clearwater, AA Reading      .324, 12 HRs, 72 RBIs

8. Maikel Franco          3B                  Low-A Lakewood                            .280, 14 HRs, 84 RBIs

9. Darin Ruf                LF/1B              AA Reading                                   .317, 38 HRs, 104 RBIs

Phillies                                          .333, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs

10. Carlos Tocci          OF                  Gulf Coast League Phillies               .278, 9 RBIs, 9 steals

Additional comments

Only three players -- Biddle, Pettibone and Franco -- from last year's top 10 are on this year's Baseball America list. May, as previously mentioned, was traded to the Twins.

Sebastian Valle was third on last year's list, but has been passed by Joseph as the organization's top catching prospect. Joseph was acquired in the trade deadline deal that sent Hunter Pence to San Francisco and is considered a much better defensive catching prospect. It will be interesting to see how Valle responds to the challenge from another top catching prospect in the system.

Also missing from last year's list are Phillippe Aumont, Freddy Galvis, Justin De Fratus, Brody Colvin and Jiwan James.

Aumont, a righthanded pitcher, made it to the big leagues and has a chance to be part of the Phillies' bullpen in 2013. Galvis lost his rookie status afte spending the first two months as the Phillies' second baseman. De Fratus, after missing much of last season with an elbow injury, still has rookie status. He has an excellent chance of being with the big-league team next season.

Colvin dropped out after consecutive disappointing seasons and it's beginning to appear as if James will be unsuccesful in his quest to make the transition from minor-league pitcher to outfielder that started after the 2007 season.

It was good to see Ruf on the list after his breakout 2012 season. Asche and Franco give the Phillies' two solid prospects at third base, a position where they have been unable to develop a player since the departure of Scott Rolen more than a decade ago. Franco, because of his power, is the more prototypical third baseman.

Center fielder Tyson Gillies has not played enough to be on any top 10 list, but he is talented enough. Ditto for outfielder Zach Collier.