The Phillies kept it local.
With the 27th overall pick Monday night, the team had a chance to pick Brandon Workman from the University of Texas again or take a local talent they've grown to love over the last two years.
Jesse Biddle, an 18-year-old lefthander from Mount Airy and Germantown Friends High School, got the nod.
He is the first local player ever to be drafted in the first round by the Phillies. Scouting director Marti Wolever said a private workout at Citizens Bank Park on Wednesday probably sealed the deal.
"He was outstanding," Wolever said. "He was even better than we had seen him during the course of the year. We draw a lot of comparisons to [Los Angeles Dodgers lefthander] Clayton Kershaw when he was in high school. I think ceiling-wise and stuff-wise, Jesse has a chance to be that kind of guy. We just felt at this time that he was the best high school lefthander on the board."
Phillies scouts Eric Valent and Del Mintz intensely tracked Biddle during his final two high school seasons and always walked away impressed. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound lefthander went 9-2 with a 1.06 ERA as a senior, leading Germantown Friends to its seventh straight Friends League title. He struck out 140 batters in 591/3 innings. As a junior, he was 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 33 innings while allowing only seven hits.
Biddle was not available for comment Monday night, but Wolever said the young lefthander, who has a scholarship to the University of Oregon, was thrilled to be taken by his hometown team.
"I just talked to Eric Valent and he said [Biddle] broke down and was pretty emotional," Wolever said. "He was really taken aback by the whole thing. Even though he had been here and he knew we had an immense amount of interest, he was really taken aback."
Bob Bergholtz, Biddle's coach for four seasons at Germantown Friends, was also excited.
"I'm ecstatic for him," Bergholtz said. "To be drafted into the major leagues is a great accomplishment by itself, but then to be drafted by the team that you've been following since you were a little kid, if you wrote that script, you really couldn't believe it."
Wolever said he was impressed by Biddle's composure during his workout at the ballpark, not to mention the way he threw the baseball. The Phillies' scouting director said he hit 94 m.p.h. with his fastball after throwing 89 to 90 earlier in the spring.
"He wasn't overwhelmed by being here at the park and he got prepared properly," Wolever said. "He's a very intelligent kid and he knows what to do. He's also added a slider to his other two pitches," a fastball and change-up.
Even though the Friends League is not considered among the top high school leagues in this area, Valent said the Phillies are confident that Biddle will excel as he climbs through the minor leagues.
"Listen, I grew up in California and the high school leagues out there are OK, but they're not great," Valent said. "We saw him play in a bunch of showcase tournaments. His talent is worthy of being a first-round draft pick. He's a big, physical lefthander. I think he's going to be a big horse at the front end of a rotation."
Wolever is confident that the team will work out a deal with Matt Sosniok, who is Biddle's adviser.
"He expressed a desire to pitch [for the Phillies] and, of course, it's a pretty good fit here in your hometown," Wolever said.
Workman, a third-round pick by the Phillies as a Texas high schooler in 2007, was not selected among the top 50 picks Monday night after being projected by many as a first-round selection.
Wolever said the Phillies would definitely be interested if he slipped to the 77th overall pick Tuesday, which will mark the team's first selection in the second round.
Contact staff writer Bob Brookover at 215-854-2577 or email@example.com.