Astros pitching coach Brent Strom said Tuesday that he expects Whitley to be assigned to Triple-A Fresno to begin the 2020 season, Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports. This was the expectation, but Strom essentially confirmed that the team's top pitching prospect is not in the hunt for a spot in the Opening Day rotation. "And when it's right, it'll happen, but I don't think right now I would consider him, you know, a viable candidate [for the No. 5 spot]." Whitley struggled to a 12.21 ERA in eight appearances at the Triple-A level last year while battling through shoulder fatigue. He returned late in the calendar year, putting up an impressive 32:9 K:BB in 25 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Whitley is in camp with the big-league squad.
Whitley was invited to the Astros' big-league camp Tuesday, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. A first-round pick back in 2016, Whitley endured a tough 2019 campaign. In 11 starts for Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock last season, he posted a 9.00 ERA and 1.85 WHIP while featuring a 29.5 percent strikeout rate and 15.43 percent walk rate. With just five of those starts coming at the Triple-A level, the highly rated prospect likely needs some more minor-league experience before he's ready to push for a big-league roster spot.
Whitley, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning of his 2019 Arizona Fall League debut, attributed a lot of his woes this season to trying to make some necessary mechanical adjustments that he hopes will ease the stress on his shoulder going forward, Jim Callis of MLB.com reports. "I'm getting a lot more comfortable with the newer delivery, throwing a lot more strikes as of late, bullpen [sessions] have been really solid lately," Whitley said. He missed seven weeks with shoulder fatigue this year, which is what led to the mechanical tweaks that he says resulted in some growing pains that will be worth it in the long run. Whitley is working on maintaining a better posture in is upper body, and it is understandably not an overnight fix when adjusting a delivery that he has been using for the past seven years. He struck out six while allowing one hit and two walks in 4.2 innings for Peoria over the weekend. Whitley is simply too talented to struggle for much longer if his health cooperates. He won't make the big-league rotation out of spring training, but if his mechanical adjustments pay off, he could spend a good chunk of 2020 in the majors.
Whitley will throw in the Arizona Fall League, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. The Astros' top pitching prospect has endured a season plagued by injuries and ineffectiveness. Whitley pitched to a 12.21 ERA over his first eight starts before the organization sent him to Florida for a two-month reset, a period during which he was on the minor-league injured list with right shoulder fatigue. Since his return to full-season affiliates, the right-hander has been inconsistent, posting a 4.94 ERA over six starts for Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Round Rock.
Whitley (shoulder) could still contribute in some capacity in the majors this season, but he faces an uphill battle to do so, Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle reports. "He would have to prove to us in August that he could help us, which is a high bar (because) he's not currently on the (40-man) roster," general manager Jeff Luhnow said Saturday. "But I'm not going to rule it out, that's for sure." He walked five and only threw 42 of 82 pitches for strikes in 3.2 innings Saturday for Double-A Corpus Christi, interrupting what had been a nice three-game run for him. In his three previous starts -- two at High-A and one at Double-A -- Whitley struck out 16 and walked only three in 12.1 innings of three-run ball. Whitley is certainly talented enough to make a case for joining the big-league roster in September, but he would really have to be lights-out going forward to force the Astros to clear a 40-man roster spot for him. In all likelihood, he will make his big-league debut in 2020.
Last 7 Games