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Red Sox Top Prospect Voting: Garrett Whitlock is turning heads

And the Red Sox are hoping he’s one the Yankees regret letting get away.

Boston Red Sox v Minnesota Twins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Time flies when you’re having fun. Time also flies, apparently, when you’re stuck inside amid a pandemic for over a year waiting to be able to go places more than five miles outside your house again. Anyway, our top prospect voting is almost over, seemingly just after it started. We have just one more vote after this one, and the number 19 winner made some history. At least to my knowledge, for the first time we have a write-in winner. That winner is Garrett Whitlock, who comes in at number 19 after receiving 38 percent of the vote.

Whitlock was not a very high-profile player coming out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, having served as something of a swingman in college to go with a short, four-outing stint in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2016. The following summer, the Yankees had enough that they liked to convince them to take a chance on the righty, selecting him in the 18th round of that 2017 draft. Despite the time spent in the bullpen in college, New York decided to work him as a starter, and he quickly made good on that.

Like most pitchers upon being drafted, Whitlock was not pushed very hard in that first summer of professional work, making three starts on the complex totaling just 8 23 innings. But he pitched well in the limited innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on 14 strikeouts and no walks, giving him a chance for a couple of relief outings in Advanced Rookie Ball. The performance wasn’t as great there as he allowed five runs over 5 23 innings, but he also struck out eight and once again did not walk anyone.

Boston Red Sox Spring Training Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

That summer was enough for the Yankees to put Whitlock up at full-season ball in 2018, one year removed from college, and there he would quickly find himself on something of a fast-track. The now-24-year-old (he’ll turn 25 in mid-June) started that season in Low-A Charleston, where he had absolutely no trouble at all. Whitlock pitched to a 1.13 ERA over seven starts there to go with a 44/7 K/BB ratio in 40 innings, giving him the quick push to High-A. It was here in Tampa he’d spent most of that 2018 season, making 13 starts (plus one relief appearance) totaling 70 innings. There, he’d pitch to a 2.44 ERA with 74 strikeouts and 27 walks. He complete this eye-opening season with a cup of coffee at Double-A, where he allowed two runs (one earned) over 10 23 innings.

Suddenly, this former 18th round pick with little profile heading into his draft was already up in Double-A after just one full season as a pro, and it sure looked like the Yankees were hoping he could be up and contributing in the majors by the 2020 season. He started back in Double-A in 2019, and continued to look solid as he moved up the ladder. Whitlock pitched to a 3.07 ERA over 14 starts and 70 13 innings, striking out 57 and walking 18. Unfortunately, that’s when his elbow gave out and he’d wind up needing Tommy John surgery.

This, of course, kept him out for the entire 2020 season, where he likely would have at least been at the Alternate Site had he been healthy. Instead, he was off the radar for the entire year, and the Yankees hoped that the lack of scouting over that time would mean he could be snuck through the Rule 5 Draft. The Red Sox had other ideas, grabbing the righty with their selection with the idea of keeping him in their bullpen all season.

So far, nothing this spring has suggested that is not in the cards, as Whitlock has been one of the most impressive players in Red Sox camp down in Fort Myers. The scouting report doesn’t indicate someone who can be a future ace, but it does appear there is a solid chance he can stick as a back-end starter, or at least someone in a major-league swingman role. Whitlock’s two best pitches are his fastball, which sits in the low-90s and can tick up a bit when he needs it, as well as a slider that has looked like a solid out pitch this spring. He also throws a changeup that is a little bit behind the other two, but it is still very much a usable major-league pitch. He combines that with solid pitchability and command that should keep him on the roster all season, and thus in the organization moving forward.

How he’s used this season, however, should be very interesting to watch. Presumably the Red Sox won’t want to push him too far. Although he has undeniably looked really good all spring, Whitlock is also closing in on two years since pitching in any sort of meaningful game, and his long-term health is more important to the organization than his short-term contributions. I’d expect him to be something of a long reliever to start the year. That said, if he does keep up what we’ve seen from him down in Florida, the Red Sox will be forced to give him bigger roles as the season goes on, whether that means more important innings in relief or potentially some starts later in the year.

Here is our list so far:

  1. Triston Casas
  2. Jeter Downs
  3. Bryan Mata
  4. Jarren Duran
  5. Gilberto Jimenez
  6. Noah Song
  7. Bobby Dalbec
  8. Tanner Houck
  9. Connor Seabold
  10. Aldo Ramirez
  11. Thad Ward
  12. Jay Groome
  13. Nick Yorke
  14. Ronaldo Hernández
  15. Blaze Jordan
  16. Brayan Bello
  17. Eduard Bazardo
  18. Chris Murphy
  19. Garrett Whitlock

Now, you can head down into the comments and vote for the number 20 prospect. As a reminder, to do this you go down below and find the comment from me corresponding with the player for whom you’d like to vote. When you find said player, just click the “rec” button, and that will count your vote. To do this, you will need to be logged in as a member of the site. If you’d like to vote for a player who is not listed, just leave a comment saying “Vote for ___ here” and I’ll rec the comment to count your vote. We encourage discussion, of course, but please don’t comment under specific players’ names. Instead, scroll to the bottom to start a new comment thread in order to keep the players at the top of the comment section. Until next time...