Whitley aims for consistency needed to make Astros’ roster

Posted at 6:58 PM, Mar 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-18 20:31:05-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Astros pitcher Forrest Whitley was the Astros’ top pick only three years ago.

The San Antonio native now is the consensus top right-handed pitching prospect in all of baseball and is ready to make the big leap to the big leagues.

The former Alamo Heights High School product has spent his time in camp this spring learning from some of the best pitchers in baseball.

“It’s been great you know learning from (veteran pitchers) Garrit (Cole), (Justin) Verlander, they have been really good to me,” Whitley said. “I have learned a ton from them. They are extremely knowledgeable people and extremely cerebral guys.”

Whitley charged onto the scene since being drafted with the No.17 pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. It helped earn him a  first contract with the Astros worth $3,148,000 as the sixth prep pitcher selected.

But while baseball experts continue to sing his praises, he blocks it out.

“I don’t look into it as much as maybe my parents,” he said. “They do let me know more of it more than anyone else.”

Instead, Whitely is mostly focused on his health.

“I’m just prioritizing staying healthy,” Whitley said. “That will be the biggest thing.”

Astros manager A.J. Hinch is looking for improvement from the young pitcher as well.

After posting a 5-4 record with a 2.83 ERA and 143 1/3 innings in 2017, Whitley was with the Hooks for the 2018 season. He was 0-2 with a 3.76 ERA in eight starts. He whiffed 34 batters in 26 1/3 innings and limited opponents to an anemic .160 batting average.

“I think he is still learning his best pitches,” Hinch said. “He is caught in between throwing five or six or seven pitchers instead of just mastering the three or four elite pitches that he has.”

After an impressive spring performance, the 6-foot-7, 195-pound Whitley is ready to carry his fast start into the season.

“Wherever I start this season I’m just gonna do my best to pitch wherever I’m at,” he said.

And after four hitless innings in his last appearance against St. Louis, Hinch wants to see even more development.

“Just perfecting his execution at a level that you know that is major league quality,” Hinch said. “That is something that separates him now from where he is going to be (in) a short time.”