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Astros 2020-21 offseason- can't be any worse than last year, right? RIGHT?


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11 minutes ago, HtownHorn said:

Could also be that FAs with options aren't choosing the Astros for the obvious reason, especially one that was here during the height of the reason and likely benefitted greatly from it.

That's what makes me feel better for those signing elsewhere this offseason.

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2 hours ago, HtownHorn said:

Could also be that FAs with options aren't choosing the Astros for the obvious reason, especially one that was here during the height of the reason and likely benefitted greatly from it.

Marisnick benefitted from it?  He couldn't even hit from a slow pitch machine when he was an Astro.  If he knew what pitches were coming and still hit that poorly, he has no business playing pro baseball. 

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Game time's announced..

Home opener Apr 8 7:10 vs A's

Weekday Day Games: Mon May 31 3:10 vs Red Sox, Thur June 3rd vs Red Sox 1:10, Thur July 8th 1:10 vs A's, Wed Aug 11th 1:10 vs Rockies, Wed Aug 25th 1:10 vs Royals, and Wed Sept 8th 1:10 vs Mariners 

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Osso and Kristalla used to have a drink called the screwball, think I mentioned that on here at some point,  dont know if they still do, had 2 of them and was damn near drunk before the game 

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Zack Greinke has thrown 2,939 regular season innings in his career, second among active pitchers behind only his teammate, Justin Verlander (2,988). He’s eclipsed 200 innings in nine seasons, including the last full-length MLB season that was played. While his velocity has diminished over the years, durability hasn’t been a significant concern.

Greinke’s ability to make his starts every five or six days and rack up innings over the six-month season will be crucial to the Astros in 2021. While the rest of their starters have the talent to be above average or better, none of them has carried a major league starter’s workload for a 162-game season.

After the 60-game season in 2020, pitcher workloads will be a hot topic around the game this year. For the Astros, starter depth is a major question coming into spring training. Greinke being a workhorse (in his age-37 season) might be more important to them in the regular season than him pitching like a frontline starter.

Framber Valdez was the Astros’ workhorse in the abbreviated 2020 season, but the reality is he’s never thrown more than the 140 innings he logged in 2018 between the majors and minors. Lance McCullers Jr.’s career high in innings is his 164 as a rookie in 2015 between the majors and minors and including the postseason. For José Urquidy, it’s his 154 from 2019. Cristian Javier? The 113 2/3 he logged in 2019 across three levels of the minors.

Luis Garcia, their top depth piece, has a career-high workload of 108 2/3 innings in 2019 in the low minors. Top prospect Forrest Whitley’s 92 1/3 innings in the minors from his breakout 2017 still represents his highest total, and he didn’t log any official innings in 2020 because he was shut down with an injury at the team’s alternate training site. Austin Pruitt and Josh James are each coming off surgery and won’t be ready for the start of the season, presuming it begins on time.

PLAYER INNINGS IN 2020
81.2
94.2
69.2
45.1
63.2

Past innings are admittedly an imperfect way to forecast what a pitcher is capable of in the coming season. Not all innings are created equal in terms of the stress and strain they put on a pitcher’s arm and body. Teams have sports science departments that can more accurately measure players’ workloads. Yet the pertinent question remains: where will all the Astros’ innings come from this season?

Time will tell how pitchers will be impacted in 2021 by the shortened nature of last season. Regarding the impending workload increase, Astros pitching coach Brent Strom is actually less concerned about the starters than he is the relievers.

“I think the starters, being on a regular schedule, once they get into the routine it becomes kind of normal,” Strom said. “I think probably the top guy in the league threw what 80 innings maybe? So now you’re asking somebody like that to jack it up to 180. It’s a big jump. There’s no question about it. But I think once they start getting into the rhythm and the routine of it, it’s OK. For the relievers, it might be a little more difficult in the sense that last year we were very cognizant of their rest, which was somewhat easy to do in a 60-game schedule. Only one time did we ask somebody to go three days in a row, and that was (Ryan) Pressly in Games 4, 5 and 6 of the ALCS.”

Deepening their bullpen was a priority for the Astros this offseason, and it’s probably the position group they’ve improved the most from the end of last season. They’ve added Pedro Báez and Ryne Stanek on major league contracts and Steve Cishek on a minor league deal. Joe Smith, who opted out of last season, will be back.

But the only starting pitchers the Astros have added to the roster this offseason are prospects who needed protection from December’s Rule 5 Draft: Whitley, Peter Solomon, Jairo Solis and Tyler Ivey. The team has excelled at developing pitchers, and the front office is essentially betting that its development infrastructure will help it extract more contributions this season from young pitchers who have the tools but not the experience.

The Astros beefed up their major league coaching staff on the pitching side ahead of Dusty Baker’s second season as manager, too. Bill Murphy, the wunderkind minor league pitching coordinator who helped to develop many of their current major league arms, will be with the team as the assistant pitching coach. He’ll work under Strom and Josh Miller, whose title was recently elevated from bullpen coach to pitching coach.

Murphy, 31, has worked in professional baseball for only five seasons but team officials past and present rave about his analytics savvy, communication skills and drive. He shot through their system after being hired away from the baseball staff at Brown University to be a rookie-ball pitching coach ahead of the 2016 season. He has a degree in psychology from Rutgers University, where he pitched, and a masters in business management from Wagner College (N.Y.). He was promoted to the minor league coordinator role only two years ago. At least in the short term, he’ll retain those duties while working on the major league staff.

Miller, 42, was the Astros’ minor league pitching coordinator before Murphy and was viewed as a future major league pitching coach long before his recent promotion. Murphy falls into that category, too, and the Astros think his familiarity with all of their young pitchers who have already debuted as well as those who will soon debut will be greatly beneficial. Strom described his and Miller’s new assistant as “brilliant” and “a big-time asset.”

“I think I’m very blessed to have two very good young guys with me who are really sharp and really get after it,” said Strom, 72, and in the final year of his contract. “They’re going to hold me accountable. I’ll hold them accountable. And as I told Murph, he’s got one job. His only job I want to make sure he does is he has to go to the mound when Greinke’s pitching.”

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Osso and Kristalla used to have a drink called the screwball, think I mentioned that on here at some point,  dont know if they still do, had 2 of them and was damn near drunk before the game 

I remember my first cocktail.
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10 hours ago, UTPhil2006 said:

Game time's announced..

Home opener Apr 8 7:10 vs A's

Weekday Day Games: Mon May 31 3:10 vs Red Sox, Thur June 3rd vs Red Sox 1:10, Thur July 8th 1:10 vs A's, Wed Aug 11th 1:10 vs Rockies, Wed Aug 25th 1:10 vs Royals, and Wed Sept 8th 1:10 vs Mariners 

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Only one insane red eye...and of course it’s the Dodgers 

LA 8:40 start time on a wed; home

vs the twins 22.5 hrs later

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3 hours ago, Seasick Sailor said:

Good for Colin:

 

Always really liked that guy. Meh is a poster boy for how a fucked up system can cost players so much value. 
he was a late bloomer, made the bugs kinda old, had a great run in his prime where he was a top 30 starting pitcher in the league making peanuts, and then hit old and injured before getting to cash in. 
I bet that dudes career earnings end up being less than a fair number of the people on this website due to bad timing. 
Also, seems like an awesome dude and gave us one of the greatest GIFs ever. His wife seems like awesome people as well. One of my favorite non star Astros ever. Will always root for his success. 

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Just looked it up. This contract brings him to about $18,000,000 in career earnings. That’s not bleak, but at 8-10 million a year for 1 War in the open market he would have earned something like 80 or 90 million in his career. Instead- he never got that FA pay day. 
I mean, I’m pretty sure Brisket and a fair amount of the other docs and attorneys on here that are partners will make this kind of bank (or at least approach it) without ever being top 100 type talents in their fields (generally law, medicine, sales etc) worldwide. 
it kind of goes to show that ball players really aren’t overpaid. I could make 7 or 8 figures a year, easily, selling mortgages, for damn near my entire career, if I was as good at what I do as Collin McHugh was at what he does. And his peak lasted about 3 years. 
I’m not crying for him but that puts a different slant on it than most fans think of. 

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Is Myles Straw the answer in center field?

What Straw lacks in stature, he makes up for in confidence. Earlier this month, the 5-foot-10 outfielder told MLB Network Radio he would lead the league in stolen bases if given everyday playing time. Straw surmised he could swipe as many as 50 or 60 bags in a full season. 

Before Gerald Young begins to worry about his 33-year-old franchise record (65), Straw must prove worthy of the starting job. No position player has more to gain — or lose — during these next six weeks than Straw, the prohibitive favorite to replace Springer in center field.

Springer’s departure did not come as any surprise. The Astros did not seriously pursue a reunion this winter, instead prioritizing their bullpen and bringing back Michael Brantley. Their decisions signaled some faith in Straw, who has just 224 major league plate appearances.

Straw is not Springer. Few players in the sport share that profile. The Astros are counting on the return of their top seven hitters and a healthy season from Yordan Alvarez to compensate for the power Springer took north of the border.

If the lineup performs as expected, the club does not need Straw to be an offensive force. His job is to save runs with his defense and create havoc on the basepaths. Still, the .207/.244/.256 slash line Straw posted in 86 plate appearances last season could leave some uneasy.

In January, general manager James Click acknowledged Straw will enter camp as the “front-runner” to start in center field but cautioned that other nonroster players could factor in.

The team signed a former top Reds prospect, Jose Siri, to a minor league deal and invited him to big league camp. Jake Meyers, the team’s 13th round pick in 2017, is a stellar defender, impressed during spring training last season and spent 2020 in the Astros’ 60-man player pool. Both may push Straw for a starting spot.

 

How will the young starters manage a full workload?

In theory, the Astros’ starting rotation should be a strength. Last season, Framber Valdez found command and blossomed into a budding ace, even receiving Cy Young votes. Cristian Javier finished third in Rookie of the Year voting. Lance McCullers Jr. didn’t allow an earned run in his final 172/3 regular-season innings. Zack Greinke is Zack Greinke, albeit 37 years old.

Yet in the team’s first full season without Verlander, there should be some concern about workload. Neither Valdez nor Jose Urquidy has thrown more than 145 innings in any professional season. Javier’s career high is 1132/3 innings. Whether any of those three will have problems with a full season is a legitimate question. Click did not add a durable starter this winter, ostensibly meaning he feels comfortable with the current group.

The Astros know firsthand how quickly a good rotation can crumble. Verlander made one start last season before injuring his elbow. Urquidy contracted COVID-19 and missed the first two months. Josh James was ineffective and later injured. Javier and Valdez emerged to prevent a catastrophe.

If more trouble arises this year, depth is not as plentiful. Austin Pruitt is recovering from elbow surgery and might miss opening day. Bryan Abreu’s stock plummeted after his horrific 2020. Enigmatic top prospect Forrest Whitley is now on the 40-man roster. Could his time finally arrive?

 

Is there a closer?

Though Click prioritized bolstering the bullpen this winter, he did not acquire a bona fide closer. He reiterated the preference to play matchups late in games and did not seem overly concerned about the lack of an established ninth-inning man.

Anointing anyone with such a title in February is silly, but manager Dusty Baker will no doubt be asked to do it. After Roberto Osuna injured himself in July, Ryan Pressly took the closer’s role and was inconsistent.

Pressly is still the team’s best leverage reliever, but he might not receive every ninth-inning assignment. The Astros could have two sidearmers in their opening-day bullpen — Joe Smith and nonroster invitee Steve Cishek. If three righthanded hitters are due in the ninth, perhaps one of them gets the call.

Baker’s bullpen might be the only place where spring battles take place. Pressly and Smith are locks. So are free-agent acquisitions Ryne Stanek and Pedro Baez. Baker loves lefties, so Brooks Raley and Blake Taylor seem secure. Enoli Paredes emerged as a hard-throwing leverage option last season.

 

Was 2020 just a blip for Jose Altuve?

Altuve appeared a shell of himself throughout the 2020 season. His .629 OPS during the regular season ranked 134th among 143 qualified hitters. He gave away two games during the American League Championship Series with poor throws from second base. Altuve looked lifeless from start to finish.

People around the Astros and Altuve maintain his season was an aberration. Click claimed it was a “blip” and anticipates a bounce-back. Altuve’s agent, Scott Boras, cautioned against judging his client on such a small sample size. Boras pointed out Altuve continued his postseason prowess, posting a 1.477 OPS in the ALCS, but much of that was forgotten after his fielding woes.

Boras did not speculate whether fallout from the sign-stealing scandal impacted Altuve’s performance. Altuve, the 2017 AL MVP, was a frequent target of fan and opponent ridicule. As most ballparks seem prepared to welcome some crowds back for the regular season, more invective could loom.

Altuve was not the only star player to struggle in the 60-game season. The unconventional nature of it, coupled with the stresses of a global pandemic, could have been the most likely cause.

But this Astros team — especially without Springer — needs Altuve to regain his form. He’s one of the prime candidates to take Springer’s spot atop the order. And when he’s right, Altuve can be the team’s heart and soul.

 

Is a new contract coming for Carlos Correa?

Correa made it known this winter he’d “love to be” a franchise player and an “Astro for life.” The Astros settled Correa’s arbitration case before it went to trial, avoiding a sometimes awkward process that can result in hurt feelings. The Astros have a recent habit of finishing contact extensions in spring training.

Connect the dots, and all seems ideal for a long-term pact, right? Not so fast.

Correa’s in a different situation than many of his extension predecessors. He already will command a deal larger than any in Astros history — and could enhance his value even further by playing the entire 2021 season as an impending free agent. Next winter features a loaded shortstop class: Correa, Javier Baez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager and Marcus Semien.

If Correa can complete the entire 2021 season without injury and with numbers like he posted in 2015, 2017 or 2019, he could ascend to the top of that group at age 27.

Correa’s sentiments about the Astros are genuine, but he also has earned the right to explore free agency if he chooses. Under owner Jim Crane, the Astros have not splurged on any free agent — especially not with the years or money Correa will command.

For 2021, though, the Astros need Correa to continue his burgeoning on-field leadership, remain healthy and find his postseason power stroke during the regular season.

 

Who hits leadoff?

Springer departs as the second-best leadoff hitter in Astros history after Craig Biggio. Once A.J. Hinch put him atop the order in 2016, Springer hit 38 leadoff home runs in Houston. He set an unmistakable tone to start any game.

How Baker operates his leadoff spot could be a fascinating subplot in spring training. Springer did not start 11 games last season, affording an early look at some of Baker’s inclinations. He hit Straw leadoff in five of those games, Altuve in three and Kyle Tucker in the other three.

Straw would be a somewhat unconventional choice. He possesses elite speed but does not strike the sort of fear in opponents that Springer did. Altuve, Tucker or even Alex Bregman exist as more logical candidates. All might get some time there during Grapefruit League play.

 

 

https://www.houstonchronicle.com/texas-sports-nation/astros/article/Astros-spring-training-questions-myles-straw-15941740.php

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7 hours ago, tx 3 putt said:

Good grief. If Straw is consistently batting anywhere other than 9th, this season will suck. Come on Dusty, this isn't 1988 anymore. 

I don't really care how he orders Altuve/Bregman/Brantley/Alvarez/Correa, as long as they are 1-5 in the order. Get your best hitters the most opportunities to hit; not exactly rocket science. 

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1 hour ago, Hank Chinaski said:

Good grief. If Straw is consistently batting anywhere other than 9th, this season will suck. Come on Dusty, this isn't 1988 anymore. 

I don't really care how he orders Altuve/Bregman/Brantley/Alvarez/Correa, as long as they are 1-5 in the order. Get your best hitters the most opportunities to hit; not exactly rocket science. 

Yeah, Straw would have to have over a .400 OBP to make for his complete lack of power.

I would leave off Bregman. Plenty of power and OBP.

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53 minutes ago, HtownHorn said:

Yeah, Straw would have to have over a .400 OBP to make for his complete lack of power.

I would leave off Bregman. Plenty of power and OBP.

I mean, if he wants to go ahead and steal 75 or 100 bags that makes up for a lot of lack of power. Especially if he does it from the 9 hole. 

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Kiley M from ESPN (formerly FG) put out his top-10 Astros prospects today...

Spoiler

Houston Astros (No. 28 farm system)


1. Jeremy Pena, SS, 50 FV (110)
2. Forrest Whitley, RHP, 50 FV (116)
3. Hunter Brown, RHP, 45+ FV (120)
4. Jairo Solis, RHP, 45 FV
5. Freudis Nova, SS, 45 FV
6. Luis Garcia, RHP, 45 FV
7. Bryan Abreu, RHP, 45 FV
8. Korey Lee, C, 40+ FV
9. Colin Barber, CF, 40+ FV
10. Alex Santos, RHP, 40 FV

Pena is a popular breakout pick who just missed the top 100 because, as with a lot of solid prospects, we just needed a little more recent performance to have the conviction to sneak him on the end of a list so keep an eye on his early season performance. He was a glove-first college prospect at Maine but has worked on his swing and strength, with average raw power, close to average contact skills and at least an above-average glove at shortstop. Nova is still pretty raw but still has big upside, with above-average raw power and a shortstop fit. Barber is a plus runner who fits in center field and has worked to improve his offensive game, with a shot for league-average offensive production, which would make him an above-average every-day player. Lee was a late-rising college catcher in the 2019 draft out of Cal, and has every-day upside with a plus arm, plus raw power, and roughly average contact and defensive skills.

Whitley continues to frustrate evaluators with his ups and down, but he still has three plus pitches and some starter traits. A career path like Andrew Miller (hyped prospect, faltered as starter, found a home in relief) now makes some sense. Brown, like Pena, is arrow up and could be working onto a top-100 list with a strong first half in 2021. He was a pop-up small-school college prospect in 2019 and has taken a step forward, reaching 99 mph at the alternate site with an above average to plus slider, with the remaining questions around fastball command and changeup quality. Solis checks the scouting boxes, flashing three plus pitches and decent control like Whitley can, but without the same kind of track record, in part due to a 2018 Tommy John surgery. He's only made 11 appearances in full-season ball but could explode in 2021 with a healthy year.

Garcia was one of many rookies to break onto the big league roster in 2020, and has a solid average repertoire who could either play as a No. 4 starter or setup man. Abreu has dynamic stuff akin to Josh James and some chance to start, but likely gets another MLB shot in 2021 and settles in late relief. Santos has a high spin rate, TrackMan-friendly profile and is a projectable cold-weather arm who may take a little time but has the pieces to be a mid-rotation starter.

Others of note:
SS Grae Kessinger's (11) grandfather played for 16 seasons in the big leagues, his uncle had a big league cup of coffee and his dad also played pro ball. He's got a solid feel for the game and solid average tools that give him a good chance to hang around for a long time as a utility infielder. CF Jordan Brewer (14) is now 23 with only 16 pro games experience, but still has the loud tools (70 speed, plus arm, above-average raw power) that made him a 2019 third rounder out of Michigan.

LF Chas McCormick (15) is a bats right/throws left fourth outfielder type with solid-average tools and strong strike-zone discipline. RF Pedro Leon (19) got $4 million from the Astros in the most recent international class and hasn't played in many organized games of any sort recently, but has the plus raw power and arm strength to profile every day in right field if the hit tool plays in pro ball. CF Zach Daniels

RHP Tyler Ivey (12) has performed well his whole pro career by relying on funk and guile -- that may or may not work in the big leagues -- to go with solid-average stuff headlined by an above-average curveball. RHP Shawn Dubin (16) also has some funk, but a clearer fit in short stints due to a plus fastball/slider combination, with 2021 his chance to prove it in the upper minors. 2020 third-round pick RHP Tyler Brown (23) was a closer for Vanderbilt, but has the stuff and feel to potentially start, or go back to being a middle reliever with above average stuff.

 

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Not sure, but I always liked his work at Fangraphs. My biggest question with this list is that he had Leon outside the top 10. That seems weird to me. Keith Law had Leon at #3 in the organization. 

I always like the FG team list - goes into a lot of depth. Hope that one is out soon. 

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On 2/18/2021 at 10:22 AM, Hank Chinaski said:

Kiley M from ESPN (formerly FG) put out his top-10 Astros prospects today...

  Reveal hidden contents

Houston Astros (No. 28 farm system)


1. Jeremy Pena, SS, 50 FV (110)
2. Forrest Whitley, RHP, 50 FV (116)
3. Hunter Brown, RHP, 45+ FV (120)
4. Jairo Solis, RHP, 45 FV
5. Freudis Nova, SS, 45 FV
6. Luis Garcia, RHP, 45 FV
7. Bryan Abreu, RHP, 45 FV
8. Korey Lee, C, 40+ FV
9. Colin Barber, CF, 40+ FV
10. Alex Santos, RHP, 40 FV

Pena is a popular breakout pick who just missed the top 100 because, as with a lot of solid prospects, we just needed a little more recent performance to have the conviction to sneak him on the end of a list so keep an eye on his early season performance. He was a glove-first college prospect at Maine but has worked on his swing and strength, with average raw power, close to average contact skills and at least an above-average glove at shortstop. Nova is still pretty raw but still has big upside, with above-average raw power and a shortstop fit. Barber is a plus runner who fits in center field and has worked to improve his offensive game, with a shot for league-average offensive production, which would make him an above-average every-day player. Lee was a late-rising college catcher in the 2019 draft out of Cal, and has every-day upside with a plus arm, plus raw power, and roughly average contact and defensive skills.

Whitley continues to frustrate evaluators with his ups and down, but he still has three plus pitches and some starter traits. A career path like Andrew Miller (hyped prospect, faltered as starter, found a home in relief) now makes some sense. Brown, like Pena, is arrow up and could be working onto a top-100 list with a strong first half in 2021. He was a pop-up small-school college prospect in 2019 and has taken a step forward, reaching 99 mph at the alternate site with an above average to plus slider, with the remaining questions around fastball command and changeup quality. Solis checks the scouting boxes, flashing three plus pitches and decent control like Whitley can, but without the same kind of track record, in part due to a 2018 Tommy John surgery. He's only made 11 appearances in full-season ball but could explode in 2021 with a healthy year.

Garcia was one of many rookies to break onto the big league roster in 2020, and has a solid average repertoire who could either play as a No. 4 starter or setup man. Abreu has dynamic stuff akin to Josh James and some chance to start, but likely gets another MLB shot in 2021 and settles in late relief. Santos has a high spin rate, TrackMan-friendly profile and is a projectable cold-weather arm who may take a little time but has the pieces to be a mid-rotation starter.

Others of note:
SS Grae Kessinger's (11) grandfather played for 16 seasons in the big leagues, his uncle had a big league cup of coffee and his dad also played pro ball. He's got a solid feel for the game and solid average tools that give him a good chance to hang around for a long time as a utility infielder. CF Jordan Brewer (14) is now 23 with only 16 pro games experience, but still has the loud tools (70 speed, plus arm, above-average raw power) that made him a 2019 third rounder out of Michigan.

LF Chas McCormick (15) is a bats right/throws left fourth outfielder type with solid-average tools and strong strike-zone discipline. RF Pedro Leon (19) got $4 million from the Astros in the most recent international class and hasn't played in many organized games of any sort recently, but has the plus raw power and arm strength to profile every day in right field if the hit tool plays in pro ball. CF Zach Daniels

RHP Tyler Ivey (12) has performed well his whole pro career by relying on funk and guile -- that may or may not work in the big leagues -- to go with solid-average stuff headlined by an above-average curveball. RHP Shawn Dubin (16) also has some funk, but a clearer fit in short stints due to a plus fastball/slider combination, with 2021 his chance to prove it in the upper minors. 2020 third-round pick RHP Tyler Brown (23) was a closer for Vanderbilt, but has the stuff and feel to potentially start, or go back to being a middle reliever with above average stuff.

 

Whitley has to be close to breaking some records for how long someone is ranked as a top prospect. 

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An interview with Whitley.  I hate trying to psychoanalyze guys but there are a lot of potential red flags in this.

https://blogs.fangraphs.com/a-conversation-with-forrest-whitley-who-feels-that-right-now-is-the-right-time/

Spoiler

A Conversation With Forrest Whitley, Who Feels That Right Now Is the Right Time

February 19, 2021

Forrest Whitley has slid precipitously in the rankings. A helium-filled No. 4 in 2019, the 23-year-old right-hander fell to No. 15 on last year’s FanGraphs Top 100 Prospects list, and has now slid out of the top 100 altogether. When Eric Longenhagen released our 2021 list on Wednesday, Whitley — “as enigmatic as any pitcher in the minors” — was on the outside looking in, coming in at an after-the-fact No. 106 as a 50 FV prospect.

He’s hell-bent on proving any, and all, doubters wrong. Following an offseason where he worked diligently to fine-tune both his physique and his repertoire, Whitley is in camp with the Houston Astros looking to show that the earlier hype wasn’t misplaced. A first-round pick in the 2016 draft, he’s now aiming to emerge as a front-line starter at baseball’s highest level.

 

———

David Laurila: Let’s start with your height and weight. Where are you at right now?

Forrest Whitley: “I’m 6-foot-6 and 205 pounds.

Laurila: That’s low for you, right?

 

Whitley: “Compared to where I was the last couple years, it would be considered low. But I’ve experimented a lot, in many different ways. This is where I feel the most comfortable.”

Laurila: By “most comfortable,” I assume you’re referring primarily to being able to repeat your mechanics.

Whitley: “Yes. I feel like I have a lot more stability and body control, which plays a premium at my size. It’s definitely been a grind to get consistent mechanics down, and I think a lot of that had to do with strengthening all parts of my body, because there’s a lot more surface area to me than most guys. Hammering down all those areas was pretty much my main focus this offseason — getting everything as stable as possible. From the many bullpens I threw before I came here [to spring training] it seems to be paying off.”

Laurila: Was that part of your pitcher plan, or was it more self-driven?

Whitley: “Everything I’ve done since I’ve been with the Astros has been pretty much been self-driven. I haven’t had much outside influence. I’m pretty stubborn. I don’t always like to listen to people.”

Laurila: That can be a positive at times, but it can also get you in trouble…

 

Whitley: “For sure. I mean, it definitely does get me in trouble a little bit. Like not listening to some usage stuff. But you learn from it, right?

Laurila: Trevor Bauer comes to mind. He got pushback early in his career, and doing things his way on the field has worked out pretty well.

Whitley: “He did a really good job of sticking to his guns, and doing what he knew worked for him. He knows himself. He’s a smart guy, super cerebral. From the small conversations I’ve had with Trevor, I was very impressed with his knowledge and his persistence.”

Laurila: What about your own stubbornness? What needs to be just so?

Whitley: “Right now I’d say it’s staying on top of the soft tissue, diet maintenance, and sleep. I need to have a good area to sleep and get rest, otherwise I’m not going to be worth crap the next day. So I’m just unbelievably stubborn about where I stay — what kind of bed I sleep in, the temperature, the light.

“The soft tissue maintenance is also something I’m being super stubborn about. When somebody says that I don’t really even need the soft tissue because I’m hyper mobile… I mean, I need the fascia breakdown, just so I don’t have that accumulated stress on my tricep and forearm. Staying on top of those things has made a big difference, health and feel-wise, over the last six to 12 months.”

 

Laurila: Being particular about sleep habits isn’t exactly conducive to the minor-league lifestyle.

Whitley: “For sure. But back when I was 20 years old, I didn’t give a shit. I’d sleep for four hours on the bus, pitch the next day and feel fine. But now… I hate saying 23 is getting up there, but I am older than I used to be. There’s more wear-and-tear on my body than there was a few years ago. Now I’m making sure that I’m doing everything I possibly can to stay healthy and perform the best.”

Laurila: You have dealt with some minor health issues…

Whitley: “Yeah, and that’s been super annoying. It’s been nothing big — just small things here and there that keep me out for four to six weeks — and when it’s this many times, it gets pretty irritating. But it’s also a big learning process for me, figuring out how to take the steps necessary to make it better. Before, when I would feel something I’d kind of panic and freak out. Now, when I feel something it’s just, ‘Alright, let’s hammer this down. Let’s figure out what it is, and let’s get past it.”

Laurila: What is your health situation right now?

Whitley: “Everything is fine. I didn’t had any hiccups this offseason, and that’s really exciting for me. Again, I did everything I could to translate to having the healthiest season possible. It goes without saying that this season is super, super, important for me.”

 

Laurila: It’s probably fair to say that there are people starting to doubt you.

Whitley: “Yeah, I mean, at this point there has just been too much fucking around on my end. But I know that I’ve made steady improvements. Even in 2019, my worst year… and then in 2020, nobody saw it, but I was throwing extremely well in summer camp. Unfortunately, that ended with me straining my forearm. But I threw really solid, competitive innings against good hitters.”

Laurila: Where was your velocity last summer?

Whitley: “It was anywhere between 94 and 98 [mph]. I think I got up to 99 one time, but I hovered mainly around 95-96.”

Laurila: Do you know what your spin rate and spin efficiency were?

Whitley: “I know my fastball hangs around 98-100% efficiency, and I think my average spin rate was somewhere just south of 2,600 [rpm]. I did get one up to 3,000 though, and that was pretty sick.”

 

Laurila: Is working up in the zone with your four-seamer a big part of your approach?

Whitley: “You know, what’s funny is that I completely changed my philosophy and started going down in the zone. I started throwing these low-hoppers that guys were taking. I did it unintentionally at first. Then I was like, ‘Shit, if I just aim low on the zone, they’re not going to swing because they think it’s going to be in the dirt’. So I started doing that and got ‘take, take.’ Then it was 0-2 and ‘OK, I can do whatever I want from here.’”

Laurila: Working down with your heater can also benefit your changeup.

Whitley: “Absolutely. And the shape on my change is pretty unique. It’s one of those changes where if I sequence properly, I could throw it right down the middle at 83 and they’d swing right over it.”

Laurila: How is it shaped?

Whitley: “It’s got a strange amount of vertical break. I’ll sometimes get upwards of 18-19 inches of vertical, and then I’ll have somewhere between 15 -17 of horizontal. It’s a four-seam changeup, and from what I’ve been told, it spins so similar to my four-seam [fastball] that you can’t tell out of the hand. And I spin my changeup extremely fast. I think I sit somewhere between 2,400-2,500 rpm with my changeup, but that’s kind of my goal with it. I try to really get on the side of it, and get good sidespin on it.”

 

Laurila: That sounds not unlike Grayson Rodriguez’s changeup, which has screwball-type action to it.

Whitley: “I’ve definitely had some reps with it that looked like a screwball. But for the most part, it’s kind of that 45-degree spin.”

Laurila: Is it a standard four-seam grip?

Whitley: Not really. I used to grip it on the seam, but… do you know who Jacob Nix is? He’s with the Padres, and I was playing catch with him. He throws a very similar changeup, grip-wise, and I started moving off the seam, just on the belly of the leather. That made it so much easier for me to manipulate the pitch how I wanted to, because I wasn’t bound to the seam. I have the full surface area of the ball to kind of do whatever with it. That made it a ton easier for me to get side spin.”

http://blogs.fangraphs.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_3469.jpg

Forrest Whitley’s changeup grip.

Laurila: I’ve read that your changeup wasn’t good in 2019. Why was that?

 

Whitley: “I was throwing it way too hard, and not throwing it enough. I had a big velocity uptick in 2019, and that translated to all of my pitches. I also got really fastball happy, because I was seeing these big numbers. I wasn’t focused enough on the changeup, so it was coming out at 87-90. I need my changeup to be sub-86 with sidespin to be effective. Ideally it would be 83-84, but that might be asking a little too much.”

Laurila: What about your curveball?

http://blogs.fangraphs.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/IMG_3470.jpg

Forrest Whitley’s curveball grip.

Whitley: “I didn’t throw it a ton in summer camp, but it sat around 80-83. And I actually have a a different goal for it this year. I’m going to really try to rip that pitch, to throw it as hard as I can. I’m not throwing a slider anymore — I’ve completely bought in on the cutter — so I’m going try to turn my curveball into a [Shane] Bieber curveball. I want it like 85-88, real sharp, maybe a two-plane break. More of a power curveball, as opposed to the high-spin bender that I’d been throwing.”

Laurila: Presumably the organization is on board with that? I’m sure you’re throwing in front of a Rapsodo quite a bit.

Whitley: “Mostly TrackMan. That’s been every bullpen since I’ve been drafted. As a matter fact I feel very naked when I throw a bullpen without a TrackMan or a Rapsodo. I’m kind of like, ‘What’s the point?’ But yeah, going back to your question, they’re pretty bought in. They love hard breaking balls with high spin. The harder it is, the better the curveball. I guess you could say it will be a comparable curveball to what Lance McCullers was throwing a few years ago.”

 

Laurila: Do you talk pitching with the older guys in the organization quite a bit?

Whitley: “Not so much. For instance, I don’t like to talk to [Justin] Verlander, because he’s an alien. Everything he does is just out of this world, so I don’t try to emulate that too much. I did really enjoyed Gerrit Cole’s process when he was with the Astros in 2019. I still do some of the stuff he did, but as far as the pitching side goes, I mostly like it to be self-driven.”

Laurila: You said that you’ve really bought into the cutter. Why is that?

Whitley: “If you look at it on TrackMan — if you look at the shape — it doesn’t look like an exceptional pitch… maybe besides the spin; it it does spin really high. But the response I get from hitters, and from my throwing partners, is usually along the lines of, ‘You should throw that pitch 60% of the time.’ So that’s kind of what I’m going to do. I want to throw a healthy mix of fastballs, cutters, and changeups — kind of copying [Jacob] deGrom’s usage.”

Laurila: What are you thinking in terms of percentages?

Whitley: “I’d like to hang around 40% fastballs, 30% cutters, 25% changeups, and 5% curveballs.”

 

Laurila: Let’s close with where you are in your career. Like you said earlier, this is a big year for you.

Whitley: “Yes. I guess the biggest thing for me this offseason was throwing strikes, and good strikes. I think I did a really good job of doing that. For a while, I was so concerned about making my stuff nasty. I had a Trackman there, and I just wanted to spin it the hardest, I wanted to throw it the hardest. I didn’t really give a shit about where it was going; I figured it would kind of even itself out in the game.

“These last couple of years, where I was starting to struggle, my bullpens were just so unfocused. I just wasn’t doing a good job of compartmentalizing everything that I needed to do to become a better pitcher. So starting in summer camp… after spring training 2020, really. That’s because in spring training, I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. It’s really hard for me to watch video of that, because of how much I was sucking. It was really embarrassing. So I went back to the chalk board during that first lockdown and told myself, ‘Where was I at when I was at my best?’ I was 30 pounds lighter, so I lost the weight and got more athletic. I got leaner. I started moving better. That resulted in more strikes, just because of how much better I was moving my body. I think that’s going to really pay off for me this year.

“It’s kind of a weird situation for me. These last few years, being as highly regarded a prospect as I was, and having a lot of failure… it sucked a lot. But it also allowed me to sit back and really internalize everything that had happened. And those years went by so fast. I felt like I was working hard — I didn’t feel like I was doing anything wrong — but once I had the time to go back and reflect, I was like, ‘Wow. What the hell was I doing for the last year and a half?’ I wasn’t doing anything to better my mechanics. I just thought I had it.”

Laurila: It sounds like you’ve matured. At age 23, you’re figuring things out just as people are starting to question whether you’re ever going to live up to expectations.

Whitley: “People can say what they want about the last couple years, how I dropped off and everything. It’s confusing for me to read all this stuff, because I’ve worked hard to get to the big leagues. When I hear stuff like, ‘He’s not as good as he used to be’… I mean, I know that I’ve done things to get better as a pitcher. It’s just a matter of putting it together at the right time. And I truly believe that right now is the right time.”

 

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43 minutes ago, tx 3 putt said:

that pussy needs to be pushed harder. he better show something in corpus, asap 

I thought they should have traded him a few years back when he had some value. But I was even more gung ho about trading Tucker in the same time frame so what do I know. 

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6 hours ago, TonyTexas said:

I thought they should have traded him a few years back when he had some value. But I was even more gung ho about trading Tucker in the same time frame so what do I know. 

I'd still do a Tucker deal for Yelich. I doubt Milwaukee would.

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20 hours ago, Scraps said:

Aslo bitch ass Giles signed with the Mariners

 

19 hours ago, IDIOTsavant said:

Hope he's good for at least two blown saves against us.

That would require the Mariners to be ahead of us late in a game.

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