- Full name John William Whittleman
- Born 02/11/1987 in Houston, TX
- Profile Ht.: 6'2" / Wt.: 195 / Bats: L / Throws: R
- School Kingwood
Drafted in the 2nd round (67th overall) by the Texas Rangers in 2005 (signed for $650,000).
View Draft ReportThe consensus is that Whittleman has the best bat among Texas' high school infielders. He has a solid approach and good mechanics at the plate, and should hit for average with at least gap power. He has equaled Lance Pendleton's school record with 10 homers this spring while leading Kingwood to the state 5-A regional semifinals. A shortstop who doubled as a quarterback for Kingwood's football team, Whittleman will have to move to third base or left field at the next level. He has decent arm strength, though he throws with a funky motion, but he lacks the footwork and speed to stay at short.
Organization Prospect Rankings
After struggling mightily in his first crack at the Midwest League in 2006, Whittleman returned to the circuit with a vengeance in 2007, hitting .343 with nine homers and 30 RBIs in the first two months of the season. That performance earned him a spot in the Futures Game, where he walked and homered against Mets flamethrower Deolis Guerra in two plate appearances. The Rangers hoped that performance would spark a hot second half, but pitchers began approaching him more cautiously and he started pressing and chasing balls down out of the zone. Whittleman batted just .162 after the MWL all-star break and .240 after Texas gave him a change of scenery with a promotion to high Class A. Whittleman's fall in the instructional league was cut short by a viral infection in his spleen, but the Rangers expect him to be fine by spring training. Whittleman has a smooth lefthanded stroke with average power. He has a patient approach and can spray hard line drives from line to line, although the Rangers would like to see him get more aggressive and pull the ball a little more. Whittleman has improved somewhat at third base, where his strong arm and decent instincts give him a shot, but he committed 34 errors for the second year in a row and needs to become more consistent. He tends to put too much pressure on himself and is still learning to cope with failure. Whittleman should return to Bakersfield in 2008 and could still become an everyday corner bat in the big leagues.
The Rangers thought the 19-year-old Whittleman was ready for low Class A in his first full pro season, but he struggled for much of the year against more advanced pitching. He did get hot midway through 2006, and all nine of his home runs came in a span of just over a month between late June and late July. Whittleman showed mental toughness in the face of adversity, not surprising given his track record as a star football quarterback and leader of a Texas 5- A championship baseball team in high school. Whittleman flashed plus raw power in batting practice and in Hawaii Winter Baseball, but his best tool is his pure hitting ability. He has plenty of bat speed and can smoke line drives from foul pole to foul pole. Though he had a rough year, he actually controlled the strike zone very well. Whittleman's lower half is a little stiff, with a small hitch that throws off his timing at the plate, and it remains to be seen if his power will be usable enough for him to stay at third base. He also has to prove he can stick there defensively. Whittleman had 34 errors and an .891 fielding percentage in 2006, though he has the arm strength and instincts to become an average third baseman. Whittleman could return to low Class A to start 2007, with a promotion likely once he has some success.
As a shortstop who also doubled as his football team's starting quarterback, Whittleman tied a school record with 10 homers last spring while leading Kingwood High to the Texas state 5-A title. A local kid, he had played for the Rangers' Area Code Games team before signing with Texas for $650,000, better than slot money for the mid-second round. Texas loves Whittleman's baseball-rat mentality. He's a gifted pure hitter who strokes line drives to all fields and projects to have average or better power. He has a very advanced offensive approach for his age, and had more than 20 two-strike hits in the Rookie-level Arizona League. He's a below-average runner but has plus instincts on the bases. Though Whittleman's actions and hands are sound at third base, he lacks range and body control. He's still growing into his size 14 feet, which leads to some inaccurate throws. He tied for the lead among AZL third basemen with 14 errors in 47 games. His arm is strong. Whittleman has upside but isn't all projection--he can hit already. If it all comes together, he could be a Hank Blalock-type third baseman, or possibly develop into an offensive second baseman. Whittleman is ready offensively and mentally for low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
Like Poveda, Whittleman was much improved and still young for the league in his second stint at Clinton. After batting .227/.313/.343 as a 19-year-old in 2006, he boosted those numbers to .271/.382/.476 before an August callup to high Class A. He also added a Futures Game homer off the Mets' Deolis Guerra. Whittleman had a quieter approach and better balance at the plate this season, and he didn't chase as many pitches. With his swing, strength and grasp of the strike zone, he has a chance to hit .280 with 15-20 homers annually in the majors. He doesn't profile as well at third base as Bell, but he has a better stroke and puts more effort into his defense. Playing third base is still a struggle for Whittleman, who has the arm strength but lacks sure hands and quick feet. He made 29 errors in 85 games, and his .880 percentage was worse than his 2006 mark of .891. He tailed off in July, batting just .154/.264/.179 as most observers thought he got frustrated because he wasn't promoted earlier.
Whittleman has been likened to Hank Blalock, both at the plate and in the field, and could succeed him one day as the Rangers' third baseman. His bat is his best tool. Though he didn't homer in his pro debut, he consistently smoked balls to the gaps, especially left-center, and finished among the league leaders in doubles and triples. Whittleman is advanced at the plate for his age, though he was too passive at times. "He could become the best hitter in this league by far," Rangers manager Pedro Lopez said. "He hasn't shown the power yet, but he can drive balls to all fields and he has an excellent two-strike approach." He profiles as a third baseman but is just adequate defensively. While his hands and actions around the bag are acceptable, he has below-average speed and his range is limited. He has the arm strength for the position but maybe not the accuracy.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Texas Rangers in 2008
- Rated Best Strike-Zone Discipline in the Midwest League in 2007
- Rated Best Hitter for Average in the Texas Rangers in 2006