When the Braves traded Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets, it marked the end of the team competing in 2015. The Braves have mightily struggled since, and the Mets have taken off and asserted themselves atop the NL East standings. However, this trade is still beneficial for Atlanta long-term. Though Uribe and Johnson were playing well at the time, the Braves were not a playoff team in 2015 and turned two expiring veteran contracts into two young arms from an organization that has produced fine pitching in recent years. The team acquired John Gant and Rob Whalen, the latter of whom we fill feature in this week’s prospect profile.
Whalen was drafted in the 12th Round in 2012, but has proven to be much more valuable. He was selected out of high school, and the Mets seemingly found a diamond in the rough late. In 45 appearances (41 starts) in the minors, he owns a 2.48 ERA. He absolutely dominated Rookie ball and low-A ball. In 2013, he had a 1.87 ERA over 12 starts, striking out 9.5 batters per nine innings. 2014 was a walk in the park for Whalen as well, posting a 1.94 ERA and 8.1 K/9 rate over mostly low-A ball. Though it was low-level baseball, these numbers are nothing short of dominant.
The 21-year old hasn’t put up those types of numbers this season in A+ ball. He has seen his walks slightly increase, but what has been alarming is his strikeouts have drastically decreased. He has averaged just 6.3 K/9 this season. Perhaps this could be an outlier, and not every pitcher is a strikeout guy, but it seems that Whalen has a direct correlation between his strikeout totals and his ERA. He has still posted a respectable 3.35 ERA this year.
Whalen’s season is now over as he has undergone surgery (team has not made it known what exactly for, but it’s likely to battle an infection that sidelined him last season). The surgery was a success, however and he began rehabbing on Thursday:
The right-hander features a four pitch arsenal and relies mostly on his fastball and curveball, which is his out pitch. While Whalen will not blow you away with his velocity, the movement on his fastball is what makes it effective. I see him as an MLB pitcher regardless of what role he occupies. We have a pitching-heavy farm system, but he could very well end up being a starter for us. He has a nice track record and has been lucky enough to play for two organizations that emphasize pitching. I have Whalen ranked as the 17th best prospect in the organization. He should start the year in Mississippi next season, and hopefully he can continue to work his way up the ladder and make it to the big leagues. This is the benefit of drafting pitchers out of high school. You can give them time to develop in your own organization. Hopefully Whalen can come back as healthy and effective as ever in 2016. Get well soon, Rob.