Our preview of the Amateur draft continues today with a first-hand look at Karsten Whitson. Once again, I want to remind everyone that I did not write this and that the credit should go to Matt Marsden.
If you missed the first part of the series (and most of you seemed to have) you can just scroll down.
There are a lot of talented high school pitchers in this year’s class. Though Jameson Taillon is head and shoulders (both from a physical and talent standpoint) above the rest of the class, Karsten Whitson may very well be the #2 high school arm. He hails from Chipley HS in Florida and has the ideal pitcher's frame. Whitson stands in at 6-4, 190 lbs. and could very well add some velocity with his weight down the road. He showed to be athletic on the mound, as well as on the basketball court. Despite a somewhat up and down year, Whitson has shown plenty of potential.
I got the chance to see Whitson at the Under Armour All-American game last August at Wrigley. In his inning of work, his fastball was sitting between 92 and 94 mph. I saw Whitson throw a very impressive slider. The pitch usually registered in at 82 and showed very sharp break. He only threw one or two changeups, but they came in at 80 and it has enough potential to be a useful pitch. Despite the strong fastball and slider combo, Whitson struggled to throw strikes in his inning of work. He walked two hitters and was missing pitches in the dirt on a number of occasions. There are also some reports of Whitson throwing a 2-seam fastball, though I did not see it.
Mechanically, Whitson is what you would expect from a high school pitcher. There is nothing alarming, but a handful of things that could, and likely will be adjusted when he starts professional baseball. He throws from a high ¾ arm angle and does a nice job keeping his elbow above his shoulder. The biggest issue with his mechanics that I saw was that Whitson would often land stiff on his front foot. This could lead to some leg and hip issues, but will likely be fixed early on in pro ball. By even utilizing his stride to the plate more effectively, Whitson could see some increased velocity.
Where does he need to improve? Well, since he is a high school pitcher, Whitson needs work in all facets of the game. My biggest concern with him currently is the control. I am confident he will be able to make progress in the department since he does a decent job of repeating his delivery and is a strong athlete. Whitson’s slider needs to be more consistent. Although it was on when I saw him, reports have stated that he lacks consistency with that pitch. Obviously he will need to improve the changeup if he wants to start, and it would be nice to see a 2-seam fastball, as his 4-seam comes in a little straight.
As I mentioned yesterday, Tim Wilken does not have much of a history of drafting high school pitchers. Whitson would clearly not fit that bill, but he is a strong athlete, which is something Wilken has always placed a premium on. Due to the Cubs lack of track record with high school arms, I am concerned with how Whitson would be handled and player development director, Oneri Fleita does not exactly inspire me with confidence.
Whitson began to struggle a bit towards the end of the season. He got beat around after a 10 day lay-off where he threw over 130 pitches. According to Baseball America, there were 75 scouts in attendance for his poor start and his stock began to fall. It was not long after that when Whitson rebounded and had a very impressive start, where he hit 95 and 96 on the gun a couple times. At the moment, Whitson’s stock is rising for more than just that start.
A couple of the other likely high school first round arms have seen their stock drop recently. Both AJ Cole and Dylan Covey have not been showing their best stuff in the home stretch. The recent struggles by Covey and Cole could mean a handful of teams will prefer Whitson to the other two. If this is the case, Whitson may be off the board by the time the Cubs pick. He could go in the top 10 to the Mets at #7, but the most likely scenario is to the Blue Jays at #11 or to the Cubs at #16. Whitson certainly has the talent to be strong starting pitcher and it will be fun to see a high school arm in the system. I personally like, but am not enamored with him.