Since being drafted by the Houston Astros with the 17th overall pick in 2016, Forrest Whitley has progressed at a steady pace through his minor league career. Drafted as just an 18 year-old straight out of high school, there certainly was little pressure on Whitley to jump out and dominate the minor league landscape right out of the gate.
However, Whitley has thrown external expectations out the window, held himself to high standards, and pitched extremely well for his young age. Since joining the Gulf Coast League Astros last June, Whitley has endured through a few bumps in the road to reach his current level. His start in the GCL was less than stellar as he posted a 7.36 ERA, but that did not stop the Astros from promoting him to the Appalachian League.
Whitley took a small step forward in the Appalachian League, but it was in Quad Cities where he would do most of his damage on the mound. Beginning the 2017 season in Quad Cities, Whitley started out fast with eight scoreless innings, including only four hits and fourteen strikeouts, through his first two starts. After a rocky month of May, Whitley would rebound in June to drop his season ERA from 3.86 all the way down to 2.91, bringing his season strikeout total to 67 while only walking 21 opposing hitters.
Interestingly enough, during his time in Quad Cities, Whitley actually held opposing left handed hitters to a lower batting average than his right handed opponents. Lefties hit .230 against Whitley with 38 strikeouts while right handed hitters slugged .260 while striking out only 29 times.
For those who may not know, this is not normally the case for young right-handed pitchers, as it is supposed to be easier to face right handed hitters. The Astros front office and development team will certainly take this as a good sign, as it shows that Whitley is comfortbale facing hitters from both sides of the plate.
As expected, Whitley was far more successful when pitching ahead in the count rather than behind, but the difference was still strikingly large. When behind in the count, Whitley's opponent batting average was a lofty .326 as he was only able to battle back for strikeouts 14 times.
On the other hand, the opponent batting average was .123 when Whitley was ahead of the count, showcasing an impressive ability to put away hitters with his 93 to 95 MPH fastball or power curveball that sits in the low 80s.
While Whitley's numbers at Quad Cities were exceptional, the main reason I chose to write this article was based on the fantastic debut that Whitley had for the Advanced A Buies Creek Astros just last night.
Just a few weeks more than a year from being drafted, Whitey began pitching for his 4th team in the Astros minor league system on Monday night. So, how did he fare in his Advanced A debut? I'd say it was one heck of a start...
In 5.0 hitless innings of work, Whitley led the Astros to victory with nine strikeouts and only one walk allowed. The Astros obviously love to control innings on their young pitchers, which is why Whitley exited the game after the 5th inning with only 70 pitches thrown. It is interesting to speculate about just how far Whitley could have taken his no hitter, but he was undoubtedly in complete control on the mound.
Overall, Forrest Whitley definitely proved last night that he was ready for his big promotion to Advanced A ball in Buies Creek. For just a 19 year old kid, Whitley has exceeded expectations from Astros management and then some. One thing is for sure, Houston Astros fans will need to keep track of Whitley throughout the season as he puts on a show for Buies Creek.
Source : http://www.scout.com/mlb/astros/story/1789091-forrest-whitley-shines-in-high-a-debut?s=182