Like every season, the 2018 year was one with its ups and downs. While none of the minor league affiliates managed to win their respective league championship and the system’s ranking took a hit thanks in part to graduations, and disappointing seasons for several prospects there were a few players that had breakout years.
Some of these prospects had a lot of hype from their strong seasons, others not so much. This series will take a look at five players throughout the system that had breakout seasons.
Garrett Whitlock – Right-Handed Pitcher
The 2018 season was truly the year of the pitcher for the Yankees organization. After several of the top position prospects were either promoted or traded, the system’s strength now returns to right-handed pitching prospects. The Yankees have been well known as quality developers of right-handed pitchers over the years, and this season several prospects broke out, one of them was Garrett Whitlock
“He’s got an opportunity to do well also just because his stuff’s good and he knows how to pitch.”
That is what Charleston Riverdogs pitching coach Justin Pope had to say to Joe Dixon just before the beginning of the season about Whitlock. He took advantage of that opportunity and excelled.
In 23 games across three levels, he had an 8-5 record with a 1.86 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 120 2/3 innings pitched.
He started his year in the South Atlantic League with the RiverDogs, where he was 2-2 with a 1.13 ERA in seven starts, striking out 44 batters in 40 innings pitched. Opposing hitters hit only 168 against him as he allowed just 23 hits.
On May 14 he was promoted to the Tampa Tarpons where he would spend the most time with this season. In 14 games, 13 starts, with the Tarpons he had a 5-3 record, striking out 74 batters in 70 innings of work and throwing one complete game.
His success earned him a two-game cameo with the Double-A Trenton Thunder, a team he will likely spend a significant portion of 2019 with. In 2 games with the Thunder, he was 1-0 with a 0.84 ERA, allowing just one earned run \ in 10 2/3 innings. It was the only time that he did not strike out more batters than he had innings pitched.
“Between Charleston and Tampa there’s a little bit of a difference, but between Charleston and Trenton there is a much bigger difference,” Whitlock said to Austin Petolillo in August. “As you go up, the hitters get better, they have more of an approach, and they’re not going to swing at your bad pitches and the ones that you miss and leave up in the zone they’re going to hit a lot harder.”
Without a doubt, the 18th round pick in the 2017 draft out of Alabama-Birmingham has pitched as if he was selected in one of the top 10 rounds of the draft.