After an off-season full of pitching what ifs, rookie Chase Whitley has performed admirably in a starter’s stead. Other than a blip against the Toronto Blue Jays, Whitley has not surrendered more than three runs in any game, quite an accomplishment for an inexperienced player. And herein lies the issue.
Whitley was mainly a third baseman who was a reliever on the side when he played for Troy University. When he was drafted in the 15th round in 2010, Whitley was used exclusively as a later inning man during his early professional years. In fact, the 25-year-old has only 13 games started in 151 farm system outings. Six of those starts were from 2014.
Obviously, the kid has good stuff and composure. He has the poise to become a successful major leaguer in the future. The Yankees should not squander a talent such as Whitley, and should monitor his innings, progression, and fatigue levels. So far, Whitley has only eclipsed the five inning mark in two games, and both those times were wins. Whitley has logged 68.1 sets of three outs this season (including the minors); his highest total is 91 innings in a season thus far. Another three starts, and number 39 is in relatively unchartered waters.
Also, if Whitley does throw 150 or so innings this year, his arm could be tired for 2015. Of course, if the Yankees find a groove and are in the heat of a playoff race, the team will have to make the same decision the Nationals did a few years ago with Stephen Strasburg; to pitch or not to pitch? Strasburg was far more touted than Whitley, but the principles are similar. If the Yankees really want to win this season, then maybe risk Whitley, although the organization would much rather keep Whitley fresh. For what it’s worth, Strasburg did not pitch and needed Tommy John surgery the next season.
Either way, Whitley’s first season in the Bronx has been a great accomplishment. As long as he continues to throw at his spots and not walk batters, 2014 will treat Whitley well. Come the All-Star break, the Yanks should check on their Troy alum. If all systems are go, then Whitley should continue his performance on the mound. Yet, if there are any reservations about him, the team should err on the side of caution given his lack of history.