Stripping Forrest Whitley of Jeff Luhnow’s “untouchable” label could be the best decision by James Click and the Houston Astros.
There’s a good piece in the Houston Chronicle from Chandler Rome about how Forrest Whitley may be viewed by the Houston Astros now that Jeff Click is in charge and not Jeff Luhnow. Luhnow twice proclaimed that Whitley was untouchable and Click said something quite different. His words:
"“I don’t think we’d be doing our job if we just took assets off the table and just said that they are untouchable, but obviously there are going to be some players that are just going to be much more difficult to move than other ones.”"
Which is to say that Whitley is not untouchable, and that he needs to start shaping up or he’ll be shipped off in the bargain bin because he’s shown no indication that he can perform at a major league level. Those are my words, not Click’s.
The Houston Astros are letting Forrest Whitley down slowly
Maybe that’s for the best. There’s a certain comfort to be found in knowing that no matter what happens, you have a GM who wouldn’t do anything to shake up your status quo.
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At the time, I had no problem with Luhnow saying what he did, and even now, I still don’t. There’s no harm in making a prospect feel valued and safe. But then again, if it contributes at all to a situation like what Whitley is currently in, then I have to ask questions.
It’s time to try a different approach, and I hope that’s what Click is doing here. Remind Whitley that everyone has expectations, and that if you don’t meet them, someone else will. Take that untouchable label off of our top prospect, once the top pitching prospect in all of baseball, and see if the new sense of urgency can shake up some kind of consistency and productivity.
It’s not even a “desperation” move. Not when we have two rookies pitching quite well in the Majors. Both Cristian Javier and Brandon Bielak look like they could really stick in this starting rotation. I don’t care what a youngster is ranked when they hit the starting rotation, just as long as they can take us six innings on a regular basis.
They’re doing that. And since they’re doing that, we don’t so much need Forrest Whitley to do that. So why keep sheltering him like he’s the messiah when the messianic job is falling to other young arms?
This doesn’t rule out Whitley becoming the ace we think he can be, it just puts him in a new situation to perform now or risk becoming the next flop.