An industry consensus Top-20 prospect had a awful 2019. What gets the scouts excited despite the poor numbers? He’s been named to the 60-man for the Astros, so let’s get to know Mr. Whitley.
- Born: September 15, 1997
- B/T: Right/Right
- 6’7″, 238-lbs
- Drafted by the Houston Astros in the 1st round of the MLB June Amateur Draft
His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of Milb.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:
If I could pinpoint one problem, it’s that walk rate. As long as his command is struggling, so can his WHIP. The good news it that his strikeout rate remained outstanding every single year.
Let’s look at 2019 closer, a year that saw not only command issues, but also shoulder inflammation in the middle of the season (related?):
OK, so Rookie level was absurd for both strikeouts and walks.
A+ level was fantastic.
AA level was great for strikeouts, bad for walks.
AAA level was OK for strikeouts, not so good for walks (though improved over AA), and the ugliest WHIP you ever want to see.
Yes, it was the walks what dun it, officer. There’s your criminal…
Hard to say, it was such an off year all around. The ugliest thing were those runs he gave up at Round Rock.
Indeed, we see a mostly balanced chart above.
Whitley started at such lofty levels it got everyone excited. Injuries interfered with his development in 2018, and then again in 2019, and 2019 was when it went all to hell.
But this is why the scouts still believe. Whitley has so many usable pitches, the BaseballHQ chart above cannot hold them all! That’s right, not only does his Fastball and Changeup grade among the best in the minors, both truly plus-plus pitches, he also has two average-to-plus pitches in his late-biting curve and slider (both with high spin rates).
Then he can turn that slider into a low-90s cut fastball for a fifth good pitch, and when Whitley is on, he looks like a #1 ace in the making. He just wasn’t on enough of the time in 2019.
Remember what a #1 SP is: two plus pitches and plus command. Whitley is just plus command away from becoming a #1 ace.
- Rotowire: #18 on their Top 400.
- BaseballHQ: #9 on their Top 100.
- Fangraphs: #15 on their Top 120.
- Fantasy Six Pack: #105 on their dynasty list.
- Prospects365: #9 on Ray Butler’s Top 200.
- Imaginary Brick Wall: #16 on the Top 487.
- Fantrax: #14 on the Top 250.
We need to see that command develop.
We don’t want any more injuries, and I note that he changed his mechanics last year (might as well, everything was going wrong for him) to maintain better upper body posture. The idea was to reduce stress on his shoulder, so that’s a good thing.
Command can come with time, but you cannot teach talent. Whitley has the talent to be the best pitcher in the game if it all comes together.