The Time Is Now For Forrest Whitley
The time is now for 22-year-old righthander Forrest Whitley, the Astros’ only remaining top 100 prospect who has endured two terrible minor league seasons beset by injury and suspensions. He relocated this offseason and switched trainers to try to rid himself of whatever has ailed him in the last two years.
Whitley will report to his second major league spring training with an outside shot to secure the No. 5 rotation spot in the Houston rotation.
More likely, Whitley will begin his season at Triple-A Round Rock, seeking some the consistency that has eluded him for two years. He seemed destined to make his major league debut last season, only to encounter numerous setbacks.
Whitley lasted just 24.1 innings in Triple-A last season and ran up a 12.21 ERA while allowing nine home runs. He walked 15, too, prompting the Astros to ship their prized prospect to West Palm Beach, Fla., for a "season reset.”
Officially, Whitley was sidelined with "shoulder fatigue.” Recently, though, Whitley said the time in Florida was spent healing and cleaning up postural inconsistencies in his delivery. Whitley, who stands 6-foot-8, had a pronounced whip at the end of his delivery, something he worked to eliminate with team officials.
He implemented all the work in the Arizona Fall League where, for a second straight season, Whitley excelled. He struck out 32 and walked nine in 25 innings. Just eight earned runs scored against him. Last year, he struck out 36 in 26 innings during the AFL.
The successes were so pronounced that Whitley moved his offseason home to Phoenix in hopes of sustaining the good mojo. This winter, Whitley trained with the Fischer Institute and reported a clean bill of health during the team’s FanFest in January.
"As we all know, 2019 didn’t really go as well for me as it should have,” said Whitley, the 17th overall pick in 2016 out of high school in San Antonio. "You take everything with a grain of salt, learn from the mistakes and try to have a better 2020.”
— The Astros’ sign-stealing penalties included the forfeiture of the first- and second-round draft picks in each of the next two drafts. The organization's farm system has shrunk from spectacular to lower tier, leaving new general manager James Click a tall task. "It’s definitely something that factored into the decision (to take the job),” Click said, "but the fact of the matter is that we have 40 rounds (in the draft).”
— Click, who took the job on Feb. 4, was noncommittal on the structure of his front office or whether he’d retain all of former general manager Jeff Luhnow’s lieutenants. Assistant GM Pete Putila, formerly the team’s farm director, was involved in the interview process that landed Click.