When Will We See Forrest Whitley in Houston?

Written by: Zach Volland (@NotBrianKenny)

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It’s hard to look at Forrest Whitley’s numbers and not question why his promotion to the big leagues wouldn’t be in the near future. After testing positive for a “caffeine-like” substance (which violates baseball’s Substance Abuse Policy), a 50 game suspension might be the only thing standing in the way of Whitley getting a real shot with the defending World Series Champion Astros. Let’s dive into the numbers to get a better view of what Whitley has done.

Last season, Whitley began his domination in Low-A where he threw 46.1 innings and struck out 67 hitters. I know it’s only Low-A, but that’s not where the domination ended. The ‘Stros moved Whitley up to High-A next, where he started 31.1 innings and fanned 39% of the batters he faced (insert shocked face). Lastly, he ended up in Double A where he pitched 14.2 innings and tallied 26 K’s and 4 BB’s… not too shabby. So the question is, what has changed? The 20-year-old already had plus-plus potential in his heavy fourseam fastball, but now the right-hander is sitting in the mid 90’s consistently with late-life laterally. He’s developed the ability to cut his fastball as well as sink his fastball. Moreover, Whitley developed a devastating slider that can easily put away right-handed hitters, plus a filthy deuce and a change up that is grading average to above average.

After carefully watching a large chunk of Whitley’s film, you can really see the refinement that has gone into his delivery. Formerly, Whitley pulled really hard on his glove side which often forced his front-side open, which created unnecessary stress on the shoulder and elbow area. This also created some problems locating his fastball away to left-handed hitters; he also had a tendency of leaving pitches over the plate for right handed hitters. The simple-fix to quiet his glove side and shorten his movements before his leg kick and into his delivery have allowed him to get his front hip (left hip) into a good position downhill and towards the plate, which has led to increased ticks in velocity on a consistent basis. Moreover, it looks as if the ‘Stros shortened Whitley’s arm circle, which should allow for a more compact and reproducible delivery. These small adjustments have made it easier for Whitley to get the most out of his 6’7 230 lb. body. The Astros have done what’s necessary to enable him to develop pitches and show his true potential as a frontline starter.

After Whitley serves his 50-game (nonsensical) suspension, I expect him to come out gun’s blazing. Staying in shape and ready to pitch over the next few months is priority number one for a guy of this caliber, and I expect him to blow through Double A after returning. If McCullers, Keuchel or any other arm go down to an injury, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Whitley get the call. All signs point that he is on track for a 2019 “full slate” in the big leagues, but a pennant race this season is in order for the Astros’ emerging dynasty. Forrest Whitley should be in the mix sooner rather then later.

You should be inquiring about Whitley’s availability in your fantasy league.

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Featured image courtesy of Chicago Sun Times

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