No bigger question mark exists in the Astros system than Forrest Whitley. Should Houston convert him to a reliever? Is he anything more than a prospect to watch at this point in time? Do they try to sell low and at least get something in return?
2023 felt like the make or break year for Whitley even before LMJ went down. He may never have a chance to prove his worth than now. It sounds like Dana Brown is counting on this very thing happening:
"We’re hoping Whitley takes a jump this year. It’s time for Whitley. I remember Whitley coming out of the Draft. Today I was watching him, and the ball looked like it was coming out pretty good. The slider looked pretty good. At some point, the kid’s going to have to take a jump, like Strider did for last year."- Dana Brown
Whitley is putting in the work for this very thing to happen, as according to Kenny Van Doren, Whitley has a new pitch in his arsenal.
The same pitcher that was at one-time a top-five prospect in the game has to still be in there. His raw stuff is simply too overpowering not to play.
Barring an absolutely dominant Spring Training, Whitley will likely start the season in AAA, where has has struggled over the last two seasons, posting a 9.26 ERA. But if he proves himself this spring, maybe he makes the Opening Day roster or leaves himself the next man up for a spot start in a long stretch with no days off or if another pitcher goes down.
Whitley could well be the most transformative piece of the puzzle in Houston. If he can finally tap into his potential this year, not only will Houston weather the loss of McCullers, but they'll elevate to new heights they may not even have thought possible during their six-year reign of terror throughout the league.