Astros: Which pitching prospect is ready to be the “Next Man Up”?

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HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX - OCTOBER 17: Josh James #63 of the Houston Astros pitches in the third inning against the Boston Red Sox during Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Minute Maid Park on October 17, 2018 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images) /
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Forrest Whitley, 21, has widely been touted as not only Houston’s top pitching prospect, but one of the best in baseball. Whitley is ranked #2 overall below Kyle Tucker and the #1 pitching prospect in the organization. He’s also the top ranked pitcher in the MLB Pipeline and 8th out of all positions.

He was the 17th pick in the first round of the 2016 MLB June Amateur Draft, straight out of Alamo High School, San Antonio, TX. In 2017, his first full season, he became one of only five pitchers this century to reach the AA level in their first complete season as a first-round prep draftee. The other four are Zack Greinke, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Dylan Bundy, not bad company.

Whitley grades out the best, of the three pitchers analyzed here. His fastball rates above average and is his strength, ranging 92-97 MPH, that cuts and runs well. It can be a intimidating pitch coming from a lanky 6’7″ frame. His curveball also grades above average and he adds a quality slider and changeup to his arsenal.

Scouting grades: Fastball: 65 | Curveball: 65 | Slider: 55 | Changeup: 55 | Control: 50 | Overall: 60

His 2017 season between three minor league teams gave a look into his potential as a future star. In 23 games he had a 2.93 ERA and had an impressive 13.9 SO/9 innings, only allowing 5 HRs in the process. Whitley missed the first 50 games of the 2018 season due to violation of the leagues drug policy. But when he returned in June, he took off right where he left.

The front office thinks so highly of Whitley, they reportedly turned down a trade for James Paxton, not willing to give up their #1 pitching prospect. Luhnow has made it clear that Whitley won’t be involved in any future trade.

"“We’ve said from the beginning, Whitley’s not going anywhere except to Houston at some point in the near future.” Jeff Luhnow via Houston Chronicle"

Whitley has been invited to participate in the 2019 Spring Training. It will be exciting to see his progress, along with the other pitchers mentioned. These pitchers are by no means the only ones that will be monitored closely this upcoming season. The Astros’ top fifteen prospects consist of ten pitchers. Some won’t make it to the big-leagues yet, a few may be designated to help in the bullpen, but one or two may be relied upon to fill some big shoes in the rotation.

Next. Astros: Don’t hate on Dallas Keuchel for rejecting 2016 contract offer. dark

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