MMs Top 25: #21 RHSP Robert Whalen

#21 RHSP Robert Whalen (LR#23)
Bats: R Throws: R
Height: 6' 2" Weight: 200 lb
Age: 21
Acquired: 2012 Rule IV draft, 12th round, Haines City HS (Haines City, Florida)

2014: (A) 9-2, 1.94 ERA, 69.2 IP, 8.1 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.990 WHIP
2013: (Rk) 3-2, 1.87 ERA, 72.1 IP, 9.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.926 WHIP

     There is something to be said for guys who just produce positive results. Whether you think they have the tools or velocity, or lack thereof, the purpose of pitchers is to put their teams in a position to win. Whalen has done that in spades so far in his minor league career. In 143 career innings, Whalen is 12-4 with a 1.89 ERA and a .186 Batting Average Against. That is phenomenal no matter what level a prospect may be at. That said though, while he has the production to certainly warrant flying up this list, those pesky injuries keep capping what I can do with him.

     After winning his 1st 4 starts of the season, after an aggressive assignment to Savannah, Whalen lost 2 months of development time due to an "odd" infection near his knuckle on his throwing hand. The team claims that it was not MSRA but a surgical procedure was needed in order to clean out the infection. Upon finally returning to the mound, Whalen's velocity was down and the percentage of swings and misses against batters had dropped from 19% to only 10%. Despite the periphals results dip, the standard stats were still very good suggesting that Whalen just needed some time to get his stuff back after the surgery. The Mets believed this too and were intrigued enough to send Whalen to the Arizona Fall League to get a few more innings in.

     Whalen's assignment to the AFL not only served a purpose for him and the team but it also gave us some new information on his "stuff" thanks to Pitch F/X being used in the AFL as well. His fastball has below average velocity coming in between 90-92 mph and has below average arm-side movement. Because of this, Whalen added a sinker to his arsenal in 2014 and used it heavily during the fall against right handed pitchers. The pitch has the same velocity as his fastball but generates a greater number of swings & misses compared to the fastball due to its 2 plane armside and down movement. 

     His best pitch continues to be his 79-81 mph 10-4 curveball. Whalen gets an excellent snap on the ball giving it sharp late break which generates excellent swing an miss percentages. His 4th pitch is his 83-85 mph change-up. While the pitch does has some natural downward action, the speed differential between it and his fastball is not significant enough to keep hitters off balance. His development of a sinker also reduces the effectiveness of the pitch as batters are already geared for pitches with downward break.

     Personally, I need to see this kind of production along with a continued stretch of health in order for me to jump him up the rankings more quickly. I also need to seem him get a better feel for his change-up and reduce the velocity without sacrificing the arm action. If he is unable to do that his ceiling will be nothing better than a medium leverage ground-ball specialist reliever. For now I'll hold his ceiling and floor in place but expect a change in our next update.

Ceiling: #5 Back End MLB SP (Aaron Harang)
Floor: Medium Leverage Ground Ball Specialist RP
Anticipated Assignment: (A+) Port St. Lucie Starting Rotation.


Anonymous said...

all good in the hood, but as we have seen with many young Met pitchers over the past few years, Low A and short season success do not always translate into success at the higher levels. I know it is simply conventional wisdom, but the outlook for a pitcher cannot really be seen until they reach at least AA. Whalen fits this profile perfectly, so we should see in about two years. Molina for all of his dominance last year also falls into this category.
Anon Joe F

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