When Whitley makes his expected MLB debut against the Mets on Thursday, it will be the culmination of an unlikely professional career.
Whitley is on track to be just the 15th player selected in the 15th round or later of the 2010 draft to make the majors. Of the 1,080 players taken in rounds 15 to 50, only 1.3 percent have been called up thus far. A few are familiar names: Yankees reliever Preston Claiborne (17th round); White Sox centerfielder Adam Eaton (19th round); Braves catcher Evan Gattis (23rd round); Mets lefty Josh Edgin (30th round).
Of the Yankees’ 50 draftees in 2010, Whitley will be just the third to play in the majors. Claiborne debuted in 2013 and fifth-round pick Tommy Kahnle was selected by the Rockies in the Rule-5 draft and debuted with them this season.
The 2010 draft filled the Yankees’ system with some high-profile prospects like infielder Angelo Gumbs (second round) and outfielders Mason Williams (fourth round) and Tyler Austin (13th round). But Whitley has them all beat to the majors.
He began his minor league career as a reliever, appearing in 115 games during his first three seasons, starting only three. But in 2013, his second extended stay in Triple-A, he started five of 29 games. This season, six of his seven games were starts.
On May 6, Whitley had his “statement” game. In 6.2 scoreless innings, he allowed three hits and walked none, striking out 11.
His numbers this season rank among the best in the International League:
- 2.39 ERA is 31st overall and 11th among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 25 innings.
- 1.02 WHIP is 21st overall and eighth among pitcher with at least 25 innings pitched.
- His 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings is 11th overall and second among pitchers who’ve thrown at least 25 innings. First place belongs to recently promoted Blue Jays prospect Marcus Stroman, a Long Island native.
- He hasn’t allowed a home run, hit a batter, balked or thrown a wild pitch.
Despite his solid numbers heading into this season, he didn’t crack the Yankees’ top-30 prospects in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook and wasn’t listed in the BaseballHQ.com’s Minor League Baseball Analyst.
Brooks Baseball tracked Whitley’s repertoire during Winter Ball in 2011 and recorded his repertoire: fastball (92 mph), changeup (85 mph), sinker (91 mph) and slider (83 mph).
For a more updated look at what Whitley does, here's video of him striking out an opposing batter from this season: