Astros: Whitley seeing mixed results at Corpus Christi

SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: Starting pitcher AFL East All-Star, Forrest Whitley #11 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the first inning of the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - NOVEMBER 03: Starting pitcher AFL East All-Star, Forrest Whitley #11 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch during the first inning of the Arizona Fall League All Star Game at Surprise Stadium on November 3, 2018 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Astros top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley still has some work to do.

Fans hoping the Astros would add top pitching prospect Forrest Whitley to the roster in September may end up disappointed. While the hope at the beginning of the season was that Whitley could help the team in the second half, things haven’t gone the way Whitley or the team would have liked.

For starters, he got shelled at Triple-A Round Rock before landing on the Injured List and taking time off to rehab. He’s spent the month of August with Double-A Corpus Christi, and while he’s been better than he was at Round Rock, there’s still work to be done.

In five starts for the Hooks, Whitley has posted a 4.79 ERA over 20.2 innings. His stuff appears to still be good, as batters are only hitting .183 against him, and he’s notched 33 strikeouts. The main issue is with his command, as he’s allowed 18 walks.

This is in stark contrast to the numbers he put up at Double-A in 2018. He made eight starts for the Hooks last year and posted an 0.987 WHIP. That number has jumped to 1.5 so far in his time there this season.

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MLB.com’s scouting report notes his command hasn’t always been the sharpest, but what he’s experienced this season is much worse than anything he’d put up in his minor league career. At this point, seeing him in the majors in 2020 is far from a guarantee.

What Comes Next

Whitley will pitch in the Arizona Fall League following the conclusion of Corpus Christi’s minor league season, where he will undoubtedly focus on locating his pitches. He had success there last season, posting a 2.42 ERA with a 0.962 WHIP and just 2.4 walks per nine innings.

That bit of news also effectively rules out the idea of him joining the Astros for the stretch run, though that was already a long shot at best. He’s not currently on the 40-man roster, so adding him would require designating someone for assignment.

As far as development goes, the Astros will undoubtedly keep developing him as a starter. Some pitchers with strong stuff but shaky command have a tendency to turn into relievers, where their lack of command isn’t as big of a hindrance.

Whitley, however, has an incredible repertoire, with four pitches all capable of being plus offerings. That’s not the type of arm you use in relief, so the team has every reason to try and make him a future ace. He has yet to turn 22 years old, so there’s still time for him to regain his footing.

But he’s clearly got some work to do to regain the luster he’s lost this season. With the trade of Corbin Martin and J.B. Bukauskas, Whitley is the team’s only premier pitching prospect who’s reasonably close to being major league ready. It’s important that they don’t miss on this one.

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How he pitches in the Arizona Fall League and in Spring Training will likely dictate whether he starts 2020 at Double-A or Triple-A. He could still make the major leagues next year, but he’s got a long road to get there.

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