MLB Scout's Video View: Analyzing Astros Prospect Forrest Whitley
While the game is away, Baseball America is digging into its video database and asking scouts around the game to analyze what they see from some of the sport's best prospects. Today's subject is Astros righthander Forrest Whitley.
After an outstanding 2018 season and dynamite performance in the Arizona Fall League, Whitley seemed poised to make a quick trip to Houston. Unfortunately, things went very wrong very quickly for the righthander, who struggled at three levels, including a reboot in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, before returning for a second stint in the AFL.
If baseball is played in 2020, it will be a big year for Whitley, who can quickly reestablish some of the stock he lost during 2019. He ranks as the Astros' No. 1 prospect and No. 25 on this year's Top 100.
Here our our previous installments:
Here are videos from Whitley's 2018 and 2019 seasons, followed by what our scout had to say.
SCOUT: Whitley is a big, physical looking man on the mound. Even when he was going good, I always had some concerns about the delivery and arm stroke to really be a legitimate, long-term starting pitcher. I think this guy’s value might end up being in the bullpen.
His fastball is thrown with plus extension and shows plus vertical movement out of a high-slot release. He's a high-velocity guy whose fastball averages 95-96 and touches up to 99 as a starter, and I see it being big-time velocity in the bullpen.
Whitley can drive the baseball with down angle as well as anyone I have seen when he is on time in his delivery. The problem is, he struggles to be on time enough right now.
The cutter is firm and short. I thought it was better in 2018, when it had more action to it, but he still gets a lot of swings and misses on it. The pitch complements the fastball well.
Whitley's curveball is an average pitch that keeps guys off of his fastball-cutter mix enough. I like it better than the slider as a pure quality pitch. Plus, the curveball pairs better with the elevated, vertical ride of his fastball than his slider does.
His changeup is another average pitch for me. Its useable but isn’t plus. Looking at the video from 2018 and 2019, the biggest difference I see is the arm speed and come-right-at-you feel that is visible in 2018.
He seems more reserved, like he was feeling for his stuff in 2019, and that is similar to what I saw live. I know 2019 was a rough year for him and I hold out hope that he can regain the consistent feel for his command and control, but it is concerning to see the big spike in walk rate from a guy who I never really felt had a starter's delivery or arm action.
Ultimately, this guy has power to his stuff. If I had to bet, I don’t see a starter here long-term but think this guy has setup or closer-type stuff out of the pen. He'd most likely go to a three-pitch, fastball/cutter/curveball mix out of the pen and solidify the back part of a game.
If the trend of the multi-inning, high-value reliever continues, I could see that profile here as well with the starter background in the minor leagues. I'm hoping 2019 is an outlier as far as the walk percentage goes and Whitley can return to something similar to what he'd shown in the past.