Quick Hit: Will Spring Standout Rob Whalen Make An Impact In The Mariners’ Rotation?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The Seattle Mariners appear to have an opening at the back of their rotation and Rob Whalen is making it hard for the team not to give him the job.  On Tuesday he squared off with the Rockies, allowing 1 ER on 3 H and 2 BB, striking out 9, over 5.0 IP.  His one mistake came against David Dahl (a solo home run) and before we ignore the results consider that the Colorado lineup included:

  • Charlie Blackmon
  • Nolan Arenado
  • Ian Desmond
  • J. LeMahieu

There were other potential starters as well (like Ryan McMahon), so the performance was against a virtual “A” lineup.  The 24-year old Whalen, who has 32.1 innings in the Majors over the past two seasons, now owns a 1.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 19 K and 4 BB over 13.0 IP this spring.  The question is, does he have the potential to carry those numbers into the regular season and make an impact?

When you look at the minor league numbers the answer would be no.  While he owns a 2.99 ERA and 1.17 WHIP, a 7.9 K/9 and 3.1 BB/9 doesn’t give the impression of much hope.  The real question is if he can maintain the improved strikeout rate he’s shown this spring, and this 2017 preseason scouting report from MLB.com doesn’t give the impression that he can:

Whalen pitches with an average fastball, sitting at 90-92 mph range, but it plays up thanks to heavy sinking action that yields a high number of ground balls. His curveball is his lone above-average pitch, and he also mixes in a slider and a usable changeup. The right-hander is around the strike zone with all of his pitches and knows how to keep hitters off balance and guessing by effectively changing speeds.  With an advanced feel for four pitches as well as a bulldog mentality on the mound, Whalen shows the makings of becoming a No. 4-type starter at maturity.

Then we add in this post game quote, courtesy of Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times (click here for the article) and it further hammers home the point:

“Strikeouts aren’t usually a part of my game so that’s nice to see, but they were just trying to be aggressive in the strikezone,” he said.

If the strikeouts aren’t going to improve, and there’s no indication that they will, decent control and a groundball rate that’s actually regressed in recent years (0.88 GO/AO in 72.0 IP at Triple-A) is nothing to get excited about.  Maybe he delivers a little bit of success early in the year, but he won’t make much of an impact overall.

Sources – Fangraphs, Baseball Reference, MLB.com, MILB.com, Seattle Times

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Make sure to check out all of our 2018 Preseason Rankings:

Standard League
OBP League
First Basemen01/08/1802/09/18
Second Basemen01/15/1802/13/18
Third Basemen03/09/1803/06/18
Outfielders1-20: 03/18/18

21-40: 03/19/18
1-20: 03/12/18

Starting Pitchers1-20: 03/24/18

21-40: 03/24/18
Relief Pitchers02/12/18--

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