Whitley Dominant in Debut for River Bandits
Forrest Whitley definitely did not disappoint in his debut for the Quad Cities River Bandits on Tuesday night. Whitley, the 17th overall pick in the 2016 draft and 5th ranked Astros prospect according to MLB Pipeline, showed why the Astros jumped on the opportunity to draft the Alamo Heights High School star.
Whitley pitched five scoreless innings in the first game of a doubleheader Tuesday, only allowing one hit in those frames. He walked two and struck out six, taking the win after Carlos Sierra came in for a two inning save. Whitley never saw more than four batters in an inning, and he constantly left the Peoria Chiefs frustrated working all areas of the strike zone. He displayed a fastball that sat 93-96 mph and also showed a hard breaking ball that had the Chiefs flailing all night.
Most impressive was his poise on the mound. Forrest Whitley did not look like a 19-year-old kid on the mound tonight. He was constantly cool and calm, controlling the tempo of the game and attacking the strike zone consistently. There were times where I felt like he might have missed up and there were a few loud outs that were probably just missed by Chiefs’ players, but overall, Whitley did not look like someone who was pitching in high school just last year.
Based off of this one night, consider me a believer in the potential Forrest Whitley has in this organization. Obviously, he is still probably two to three years away from the majors, but he definitely has the tools to be the type of player that could anchor a rotation for many years.
Whitley was not the only top 30 Astros prospect on display Tuesday night, as several others got into the mix as well.
It is really exciting to see 9th ranked prospect Daz Cameron playing well. Cameron experienced a very frustrating 2016 season, starting off slowly to begin the season and ending on the disabled list to finish it. Despite this, at only 20 years old, he is showing early on in 2017 why the Astros picked him so high in the draft. Really, the first inning on Tuesday perfectly summed up what Cameron can bring to the organization. In the top of the first, Cameron led off the game with a hustle double on a flare hit down the right field line. He followed the double with back-to-back tag ups, going to third on a fly ball to center hit by Alexander De Goti and then scoring on a fly ball to right by Ronnie Dawson (19th ranked prospect). Neither of these fly balls, by the way, were hit very deep. In the bottom of the inning, Daz showed off defense reminiscent of his dad, catching two fly balls, including one that he had to track back to the warning track jumping against the outfield wall. While many wrote Cameron off after his disappointing 2016, at 20 years old, I think his arrow is still pointed in the right direction.
Anibal Sierra, the 17th ranked player in the Astros organization, hit a double in his second at bat of the night, driving in the 22nd ranked prospect, Jake Rogers, for the second run in the first game of the double header. Sierra added a walk and stolen base later in the game. Rogers was solid behind the plate, including a spectacular throw in the fifth inning beating the Chiefs Nick Plummer by a couple steps on an attempted steal.
Stephen Wrenn, the Astros 28th ranked prospect, may not have had a noteworthy night Tuesday night (1 for 6 in the two games), but he did have the quote of the night. I was fortunate to be sitting next to the River Bandits dugout, and after Alexander De Goti was thrown out at first in the seventh inning on a bad luck bounce off of the pitcher, Wrenn greeted De Goti in the dugout by saying, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you hit a ball off of the pitchers foot straight to the shortstop.”
Also on the list of Astros top 30 players was 29th ranked Jorge Alcala. He started the second game and pitched 4.2 innings, giving up 2 hits, 2 runs with 6 strikeouts with 2 walks. Alcala had an absolutely electric fastball, throwing in the mid to upper 90’s. At 21, he is still definitely raw and missed some spots at times, but his stuff will definitely play up and allows him to get away with some of those mistakes.
Overall, it is amazing to look at the talent that the Houston Astros have at every level of their minor league system. With a stacked River Bandits roster, they should be an exciting team to watch all season. Even as some of these players will move up throughout the season to High A, this is still a team that will compete on a regular night all season long.
**Photo Credit: Hunter Reed**