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Pirates take on project with trade for former 1st-rounder Biddle

| Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2016, 2:33 p.m.
Phillies pitcher Jesse Biddle throws during a spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays on March 7, 2015, in Clearwater, Fla.

The Pirates acquired another pitching reclamation project on Wednesday, the type of arm they have had so much success with in recent years, but this one will require a waiting period.

The Pirates acquired 2010 first-rounder Jesse Biddle from the Philadelphia Phillies on Wednesday for right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina. Biddle, a left-hander, had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 14 and is expected to miss all of the 2016 season. He recently had been designated for assignment by the Phillies.

Medina, a high-velocity reliever with control issues, was claimed from the Chicago Cubs this offseason by the Pirates and recently was outrighted off the 40-man roster to make room for pitcher A.J. Schugel.

“We have tracked Jesse for a number of years and felt the upside was worth the challenges,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said. “We are looking forward to the opportunity to help him return to health and develop into the pitcher he has shown signs of becoming as he has advanced in his professional career.”

Biddle once was the top prospect in a thin Philadelphia farm system, and a top 100 prospect in the game. He rode a sinking, two-seam fastball to post consecutive ERAs of 2.98, 3.22 and 3.64 as he rose from Low-A to Double-A from 2011 to 2013. He showed an ability to miss bats with a four-pitch mix that includes a sweeping curveball, striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings in High-A in 2012 and 10.02 per nine in Double-A in 2013.

But Biddle has dealt with control issues throughout his minor league career.

Biddle walked 5.4 batters per nine innings last season in Triple-A and has walked 4.4 batters per his minor league career.

However, the Pirates have a track record of improving pitchers' control issues, and there is some upside to Biddle, who was ranked as Philadelphia's No. 1 overall prospect as recently as 2013 by MLB.com and Baseball America. Biddle was Baseball Prospectus' No. 67 overall prospect entering 2013 and ranked No. 71 in the game by MLB.com entering 2014.

Wrote the Baseball Prospectus prospect team — led by now Chicago Cubs scout Jason Parks — of Biddle in 2013:

“Out of high school, Biddle drew comparisons to Andy Pettitte due to similar frames, deliveries and arsenals (though Biddle's fastball variation is a two-seamer rather than a cutter). That comparison largely holds true three years later as the 27th overall selection in the 2010 draft has sharpened his consistency. ... Biddle projects as a mid-rotation arm capable of eating innings and missing bats.”

Biddle's prospect star has fallen since then, and it remains to be seen how he recovers from Tommy John surgery, but the Pirates have a strong track record of uncovering value in recent seasons.

To make room on the 40-man roster for Biddle, the Pirates designated Schugel for assignment.

Travis Sawchik is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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