Quad Cities has seen several very interesting pitchers pass through it’s starting rotation this season. From Carlos Martinez to Jordan Swagerty to current starter Trevor Rosenthal, they’ve had a plethora of high octane arms throwing gas and striking out batters. One of the undersung additions to that rotation has been Boone Whiting.
While he’s not a complete surprise to prospect watchers, Whiting’s Johnson City performance in 2010 after signing with the Cardinals hasn’t slowed down much. He struck out 11 batters per 9 IP while walking fewer than 1 per 9IP. Yes, you’re reading that correctly. Over 54 innings, Whiting had a 13.6 K:BB rate. For every 13 batters he struck out, he walked one.
But as an 18th round pick out of a no name [Clarification: It is a Div 1 program but realistically not a top program -- they are in the Summit League.] baseball program (Centenary College in New JerseyLouisiana [reader correction]), 54 innings was unlikely to turn anyone from a skeptic into a believer. There’s ample evidence that the skeptical approach is, on balance, the right one. Whiting began his 2011 season in the Quad Cities pen and has set out to show that 2010 wasn’t a fluke.
He’s appeared in 22 games to date including 6 starts and accumulated 68.2 innings. The strikeouts are still coming though not quite as frequently. Compared to the previously mentioned prospects that have higher name recognition, Whiting doesn’t quite stack up in pure K rate:
What Whiting does have is better control than all of those pitchers. In fact, Whiting’s 4.6 K/BB rate is higher than any of the above listed names.
The concern with control pitchers is always whether their lack of pure stuff will eventually catch up with them. As more advanced hitters chase fewer balls outside of the zone, the pitchers are forced to work closer to the zone and the batters make them pay for their inferior stuff. Having not seen Whiting first hand (nor having read any quality, credible reports on him), it’s premature to say whether he’s a soft tossing, control right hander that is destined for hard knocks at higher levels.
Here’s my cautionary tale though. There are a couple really good scouting examples — entirely anecdotal — that I like to reference for control pitchers in the low minors.
Petit and Walters are both in their age 26 season. While neither is old, Walters is mired in a mediocre season at Memphis in the PCL and Petit played a little in the Mexican league during 2011 but has otherwise not been involved with Major League Baseball or its affiliates. Yuseirmo Petit was a Venezualan product that came through the Mets organization and was, in 2005, rated a top 50 prospect by Baseball America. His stuff never translated to the big leagues and he’s a footnote in prospect history at this point.
While I’m encouraged to see the impressive results that Boone Whiting has had in Quad Cities on the heels of his rookie ball success, I’m hesitant to drive the bandwagon.