Astros Player of the Day: Forrest Whitley

Feb 26, 2020; West Palm Beach, Florida, USA; Houston Astros pitcher Forrest Whitley warms up before the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jim Rassol-USA TODAY Sports

Astros Player of the Day: Forrest Whitley

Welcome to Gallery Sports’ Houston Astros Spring Training player spotlight, Astros Player of the Day. We will look at a different Astros player each day throughout spring training.

Today’s Astros Player of the Day is starting pitcher Forrest Whitley.

If Whitley, 25, seems like he has been a prospect forever, it’s because he has. Whitley was 18 when the Astros selected him with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the 2016 MLB draft.

Once ranked as a top-10 prospect in all MLB, Whitley’s career has been beset by a PED suspension, a minor league season lost to a pandemic, and several injuries, including Tommy John surgery. As a result, Whitley lost the entire 2020 and 2021 seasons.

He returned to the mound in 2022, making his season debut on June 16 with the Astros FCL Rookie team. He made one appearance, throwing two innings to shake off the rust before being promoted to Fayetteville in the Class A Carolina League.

Whitley made two appearances for the Woodpeckers, covering five innings and allowing only one total hit while fanning seven. Those two outings earned him a promotion to Triple-A Sugar Land.

Things didn’t go so well for him with the Space Cowboys, as he was hammered for six runs and five hits in 2.2 innings in his first start. His second start was looking much better, with Whitley allowing only one hit in 1.2 innings, but he was pulled with shoulder discomfort.

While the shoulder injury was not related to the elbow injury that caused him to need Tommy John surgery, it still cost him nearly a month on the IL. Whitley’s struggles continued when he returned, and control problems were a big issue. He walked 14 batters over his final 12.1 innings and 25 in 33 innings overall at Sugar Land while posting a 7.09 ERA.

Whitley’s stuff has never been an issue, but suspect control complicated by significant injury and time away from the game due to injury, and a pandemic has stunted his development. A big part of Whitley’s command issues has been that the team has adjusted his delivery multiple times, and the big 6-foot-7 young pitcher hasn’t been able to keep the same delivery for an extended period.

The 2023 season will be an important one for Whitley, as he must show that he can both regain his past dominant form, progress significantly with his control, and stay healthy.

Whitley will be at Astros spring training but is expected to begin the season at Sugar Land. The expectation for him should be to pitch a full year at Sugar Land with consistent success. A strong performance from Whitley this season at Triple-A could turn him into a valuable trade chip for Houston at the deadline/in the offseason or a potential member of the big league club in 2024.

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