Astros See The Forrest For The Trees

HOUSTON—Righthander Forrest Whitley logged just 11.1 innings in the Rookie-level Appalachian League to finish last season, but the Astros felt after spring training the 19-year-old was ready for the next level.

Whitley began this season at low Class A Quad Cities in the Midwest League. The 6-foot-7 Whitley allowed only one hit over five innings of his season debut on April 11, striking out six against two walks.

Given his age, the Astros could have Whitley, the 17th pick in last year’s draft, spend his first full season with Quad Cities, like they did with Lance McCullers Jr.

“We don’t have any specific goals in place for him in terms of where he ends up or even numbers that he might put up,” assistant general manager Mike Elias said. “We just want him to get through his first full season healthy and productive and have a good year.

“He’s in a very good spot in terms of his abilities and what we expect for him in the future and what we project for him. We like everything we’ve seen. He had a great spring training. He has a tremendous work ethic and drive to make it to the major leagues.”

The Astros want Whitley to experience the ups and downs and grind of a full season of pro baseball. This time last year, he was pitching at Alamo Heights High in San Antonio.

Whitley recorded a 4.82 ERA in 18.2 innings last year in stops at Rookie-level Greeneville and in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League. He entered the year ranked as the No. 6 prospect in the Astros system and fourth-best among pitchers behind righthanders Francis Martes, David Paulino and Franklin Perez.

“He’s got five pitches at his disposal that he can throw for strikes,” Elias said. “He’s in great shape right now and he is a sponge in terms of picking up knowledge and trying to learn about pitching. He’s been nothing but positive since he’s gotten here.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with his season with the knowledge that he is a 19-year-old kid and it is A-ball and we don’t want to place too high of expectations on him for this year.”


First baseman Jon Singleton, who is no longer on the 40-man roster but will make $2 million this season under the extension he signed in 2014, was demoted to Double-A Corpus Christi after spending last year at Triple-A Fresno.

Quad Cities shortstop Jonathan Arauz was suspended the first 50 games of the Midwest League season after testing positive for a banned stimulant.

— Jake Kaplan covers the Astros for the Houston Chronicle

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