2020 may be a make or break year for former Houston Astros top prospect Forrest Whitley.
The Houston Astros have been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. But that doesn’t change the fact that they look like a REALLY good ball club in 2020. And that really good ball club could use some help in their rotation.
Outside of Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander, the Astros rotation is full of question marks. Lance McCullers Jr looks locked in as their third starter. But McCullers didn’t pitch in 2019 and is coming off Tommy John surgery, leaving big question marks on how effective he is going to be in 2020.
Most people have Jose Urquidy penciled in as the team’s fourth starter. However, Urquidy has only pitched in 9 games at the major league level. And from there it’s anyone’s guess who’s going to break camp as the team’s fifth starter.
If you would’ve run down this 2020 situation to any Houston Astros fan at the start of last year, they would’ve come back with one question. What about Forrest Whitley?
Just about every prospect ranking last season had Whitley in their top ten, and most had him as the top pitching prospect in baseball.
Then 2019 happened. Just 18 games pitched in the minors. In those games, he combined for only 59.2 innings. Or just over 3 innings per game. And his ERA was astronomical at 7.99.
Yes, he was banged up. And maybe that’s the reason he couldn’t figure it out on the mound. But when things go that bad it’s rarely just one thing.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t bring up his 2018 PED suspension. It’s not likely that it’s the reason for his performance fall off, but it couldn’t have helped.
In response to such a disappointing year, Whitley made some major changes in the offseason. He reported to camp 15 pounds heavier than last year and decided to work out less during the offseason.
The weight gain might not be a good thing, but a little stress on the body during the offseason is sure to help reduce his risk of reinjury. Either way, Whitley is sure that both are going to aid his success in 2020 and beyond.
The rest of us aren’t so sure it’s going to make much of a difference. He’s got the raw talent; he just hasn’t put it together for an extended period yet.
He’s going to have his chance in 2020. And if he pitches well all these questions go away. If he struggles again it’s hard to see him as a top prospect anymore.
Now he’s only 22, so even if he struggles in 2020 it’s not like he won’t put it together at some point. But it’s going to be hard to find what’s missing if he doesn’t piece it together this year.
The fact of the matter is the Houston Astros need Whitley. They have a ton of questions in their rotation and if Whitley performs well in the minors this season, we’re likely to see him on the big-league club sooner rather than later.
In fact, he might be a big part of a late-season playoff push. But if he struggles the Houston Astros need to start looking for answers elsewhere.