Forrest Whitley Looks For 2020 Bounce Back

Astros top prospect hopes to contribute after a disappointing 2019 season

Adam Spolane
February 16, 2020 - 12:38 pm

Photo by Jim Rassol/USA Today

WEST PALM BEACH, FL (SportsRadio 610)- At this time in 2019 Forrest Whitley was joined by J.B. Bukauskas and Corbin Martin as a trio highly regarded Astros pitching prospects, but only Whitley remains as the latter two were sent to Arizona as part of the Zack Greinke trade.

“It was obviously a pretty sad day for me,” Whitley said Friday. “Those are my two best friends, but I was also happy for them at the same time, they get a good opportunity over there with the Diamondbacks.”

Whitley thought he would get his opportunity with the Astros at some point last season. He made a start at Minute Maid during the final week of spring training, and it was assumed that he’d be back at some point, but that time never arrived after the Astros 2016 first round pick battled a shoulder injury and a 12.21 ERA in the Pacific Coast League.

“The biggest thing was just falling behind hitters, getting to 2-0 counts and then making bad pitches behind in the count,” Whitley said. “Also, my usages were just a little off. I was throwing at the worst of it throwing 75 percent fastballs, so that is just not a recipe for success right there.”

He finished the season with better results, compiling a 5.66 ERA with AA Corpus Christi, but broke through in the Arizona Fall League with a 2.88 ERA in six starts, giving him and the Astros a reason for optimism. 

“It was the first bit a baseball adversity I had faced in my life, so not to say it was good to get it out of the way, but it was probably better that it was in AAA than the big leagues.”

The only Astros prospect rated in Baseball America’s Top 100 reported to camp at 230 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than a season ago and 40 pounds from 2018. He believes the added weight will afford him more success in 2020.

“I never really felt tired or worn down, but I was just so skinny that by the time the season would reach June, July I just wasn’t ready.”

In order to add weight, Whitley says he cut down on his workouts. 

“Back a couple of off-season’s ago I was working out 6-7 times a week, sometimes two times a day, so obviously that’s way too much, so I cut the load down to just four times a week- Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and then started throwing in December, and honestly it was a lot nicer. I got a little bit more time to myself, played a lot more golf, so it really felt like a true offseason which was good for me just in terms of the mental break from the season.”

No matter what happens over the next month at West Palm Beach, Whitley is likely to start the season in Round Rock, but after enduring a series of struggles in 2019 the 6’7 righthander feels he’s better equipped to make a contribution a big-league level in 2020.