I’m back, I’m dry, and I’m ready to go. The second installation of Destination Philadelphia will look at a guy who’s name has been coming up a bit in the minor league circles of late, one Joe Bisenius. Joe fits the mold of the under the radar type of player who can make an impact seemingly out of nowhere. In a future writing, I plan to look at more of these types of players, but those guys will mainly be guys who can elevate their stock in the minors in 2007, in the case of Bisenius, I think you’ll see him in Philly at some point, so he’s a different case.
First, some background info. The Phillies took Bisenius in the 12th round of the 2004 draft out of Oklahoma City college, an NAIA school, after his junior season. In college, he was used mainly as a starter, pitching 93 innings his senior year. He was very tough to hit his junior year, allowing only 73 hits in 93 innings while striking out 86, but he also allowed his share of walks, with 41 in the 93 innings. He was all state (Iowa) all four years in high school, and was ranked in the top 40 of all junior college players in the country after 2003 by Baseball America. The Phillies liked his arm and felt that if they cleaned up his violent, herky-jerky delivery, they could have a found a diamond in the rough.
Upon being drafted, Bisenius was sent to Batavia, where he again was used as a starter. He put up an eye popping 1.43 ERA in 50 innings, allowing 39 hits and 14 walks while striking out 38. In 2005, the Phillies sent him to Lakewood, but he started only 4 games out of his 40 appearances, and his conversion to relief began. He struggled in 2005, posting a 5.88 ERA in 64.1 innings, allowing 66 hits and 37 walks, but missed a few more bats, striking out 56. With such varied results, it was hard to figure out what to expect from him in 2006. The Phillies started him at Clearwater, and with new-found command of his slider, he dominated the FSL, posting a 1.93 ERA in 60.2 IP, allowing only 48 hits and 22 walks, while striking out 62. The Phillies promptly promoted him to AA Reading, and he didn’t disappoint. His ERA rose to 3.09, but his stuff actually got better, as he allowed only 14 hits and 8 walks in 23.1 innings while striking out an eye popping 33 batters. He was sent to the Arizona Fall League, but pitched only 4.2 innings, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits, walking 4 and striking out 6, though much of the damage done against him was in his first outing. The Phillies capped off his 2006 by sending him to the Venezuelan Winter League, where he wasn’t quite as successful, posting a 5.06 ERA in only 10.2 innings, giving up 11 hits, 8 walks, with 11 strikeouts. However, his ERA looks bloated because of a few rough outings early on.
Bisenius had a wild ride in 2006. He started in the FSL and ended up in Venezuela, and in the end, he opened some eyes. He’s been invited to spring training and by all accounts, he’ll have a shot to win a job in the Phillies bullpen. Having not seen him pitch in person, I can’t speak to his abilities first hand. Basically, he throws a mid 90’s fastball that can touch 97, and he throws a slider. His changeup is a show me pitch, and he’ll use it against LH batters to keep them off balance, but it’s not a true out pitch. He was tough on both lefties and righties, but moreso on righties, holding them to a .584 OPS, while lefties had a .657 OPS against him, still very respectable. He also induced 1.5 groundballs to every flyball, another promising sign.
Since modifying his delivery, he’s added the extra life on his fastball, and it appears that he has a future as a 7th/8th inning setup kind of guy. That would sure be valuable to the Phillies, who in the past, have been ever so eager to give that role to the likes of Mike Williams, Arthur Rhodes, and Turk Wendell, based purely on reputation. If Bisenius has a strong spring, he’s likely to earn a bullpen spot. If he pitches well in April and May, he could find himself in higher leverage situations come the summer. 2007 will be his age 24 season, so he’s still “of prospect age”, but because his future (at this point) is as a middle reliever, you won’t find him on many prospect lists. That’s just fine, because teams need young guys like Bisenius, even if they aren’t heralded as the next Mariano Rivera or the next Miguel Cabrera. Bullpen parts are essential to winning teams, and the Phillies may have plucked a very useful bullpen part out of the 12th round of the draft.
ETA: With a good spring, he makes the team out of spring training. If he struggles, he will probably start at Ottawa, but should make it to Philly by June if he pitches well.