Could the New York Yankees’ loss be the Boston Red Sox’s gain?
ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel last week revealed his top 100 prospects for the 2021 Major League Baseball season. On Monday, he took things a step further and identified a “breakout prospect” for each organization.
Here’s what McDaniel wrote about Whitlock:
He beat expectations with strong performances through high-A, but struggled in 15 starts at Double-A before a 2019 Tommy John surgery. He got back on the mound during the 2020 season and wasn’t protected by New York because he hasn’t been seen on a mound in over a year when the Red Sox took him in the Rule 5 Draft.
He posted videos on Instagram of his post-surgery bullpens and was sitting 93-95 while showing an at-least above-average slider and cleaner arm action. He’ll likely open the season as a long reliever but has a shot to grab a rotation spot if things go well in shorter stints.
This is a fascinating prediction for several reasons, including the Yankees connection, but mostly because Whitlock’s emergence could go a long way toward improving Boston’s bullpen or rotation in 2021.
After all, per Rule 5 Draft rules, the Red Sox must carry Whitlock on their active major league roster for the entire season. If not, he must be placed on waivers, at which point another team can absorb his Rule 5 rights or he’ll be offered back to his original club, the Yankees.
As McDaniel noted, most of his “breakout prospect” picks are “toolsy teenagers who haven’t played much yet,” which makes sense seeing as there’s a higher probability in those cases for untapped potential.
Whitlock, meanwhile, was an 18th-round pick in 2018 and turns 25 in June. He’s at a much different place in his development, and even though the right-hander hasn’t debuted in the majors yet, he’ll be fighting for a big league job this spring training.