I present to you my list of the top 35 prospects within the Cardinals organization!! The list is both exhausting and ever-evolving.
I am aggressive with who I deem to be a "Graduate." You can read the post that I wrote on The Graduates by following this link. As a heads up, you won't find Lane Thomas, Ryan Helsley, Genesis Cabrera, Andrew Knizner, Rangel Ravelo, or Edmundo Sosa on The Dirty Thirty-Five (R.I.Cardinals Prospect.P to Tampa Bay Ray Randy Arozarena and Texas Ranger Adolis "JAG" Garcia).
There is also another group of about 15 prospects that I could have written about. They are on the outside looking in, currently. I did write in-depth about five of them, and I presented those fellas in this article. I also briefly touch on a bunch of other prospects in that article.
Finally, I totally cheated and basically just copied and pasted the individual write-ups from the "Position Rankings" articles that I wrote after Black Friday. I hadn't realized how thorough those write-ups were until I started to redoing the D35. I have added additional gifs and thoughts to each post, and I've done some light to medium editing within each write-up, as well.
Please enjoy! Please have fun! Please tell me what you think!
RHP Kodi Whitley
Palm Beach, Springfield, & Memphis
27th Round, 2017
Alright. Kodi Whitley is a major leaguer right now. I have no doubt about it. I think that you could easily make the argument that he's one of the ten best bullpen options for the Cardinals at the beginning of the 2020 season. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a Whitley doubter, but my initial thoughts about him weren't as high as they currently are. It wasn't until I went back and watched all of his outings in 2019 that I really got a feel for just how good he is capable of being.
Along those lines, there isn't a relief pitcher that did more for his stock in the minor leagues for the Cardinals than Whitley. Whitley is a fascinating subject from the jump. He was drafted in the 27th round of the 2017 draft, but that was following Tommy John Surgery. More than likely, Whitley would have been selected between rounds 10 and 15 had he stayed healthy and continued to perform the way that he had before he hurt his elbow. Personally, I LOVE this draft strategy, and Whitley is probably the best value pick from that draft.
Whitley has a funky, over the top delivery that really helps his stuff play up. It's a little bit like a combination of Ryan Helsley's and Gio Gallegos' delivery. The way that hitters swing at it, you can tell that he does a great job of creating deception and hiding the ball. His mechanics are kinda wonky, and they can't be easy to repeat, but Whitley does just that. This young man does such a tremendous job of repeating his delivery. On the season, Whitley got swinging strikes at a 16% clip, and that number stayed the same over his appearances in AAA. This is even better because Whitley throws a ton of strikes. Over the 2019 season, Whitley threw strikes about 69% of the time. Of the 276 batters that he faced on the season, he only walked 19 of them. He also only let up 16 extra base hits. This includes a stint of 23.2 innings at AAA in which he didn't let up any home runs. This might not seem like a huge deal on the surface, but I'll remind you that AAA home runs were up 54% in 2019 because of the usage of the major league baseball.
Speaking of Ryan Helsley, Whitley does that thing that Helsley used to do: he'll get two quick strikes on a hitter, then play with them a little too much. I get the feeling that Whitley really loves striking people out (as he damn well should), and he's trying too hard to bury a hitter. I love and respect this, but his stuff is obviously good enough that he just needs to trust him stuff. Sometimes Whitley loses command of his fastball when he is offspeed-heavy, but I don't foresee that being an issue at the major league level because Yadi loves going fastball heavy with everyone but Adam Wainwright. Just a couple of things to keep an eye on moving forward.
Other than the deceptive and repeatable nature of Whitley's delivery, It's his four-pitch mix as a relief pitcher that makes him an immediate major league option. When he is feeling it, there are times when all three pitches are above-average offerings. His slider and his fastball work really well together, with the slider being a definite plus pitch. There were times that it was reported that Whitley was working in more of a spike curve from what I understand, but it seems like the pitch on the back burner.
Whitley's fastball has mid-to-high 90's velocity, but he usually keeps it in the 93-96 range. You can tell that he's working within a count to use it up in the zone to polish off hitters. He over-throws it often when he is up in the zone, but it's effective even when he misses up in the zone because of how he uses his offspeed stuff off of it. You'll also see that it has a ton of late life. I don't have as good of a feel for his changeup, but it's definitely effective for him.
All of this talk about terrific command and a wonderful ability to avoid the type of contact that causes damage sets up the ultimate crescendo for this post. You see, it's not just that he doesn't walk people. It's not that he throws a ton strikes. It's that this kid strikes people out at a clip that elite pen-arms strike people out. On the season, Whitley struck out right-handers to the tune of a 30% rate and lefties to the tune of a 23-ish% rate. I love this stat because it feels TRUE. Whitley had a 149 plate appearances against righties and 127 plate appearances against lefties, and the numbers against each are almost identical.
Another thing worth noting, while I think that Whitley has back-end stopper, he also managed to pitch more than 1 inning in 24 of his 50 appearances. Couple this with being nine for nine is save opportunities and you can see why Whitley is a leGit option for any role in bullpen.
Make no mistake, Whitley will make a major league debut in his future if he can stay healthy. The mix is too good, and his command of it is good enough. If you had to pick one relief pitcher that hasn't made a major league debut that could have a Gio Gallegos-like impact on the 2020 team, Whitley is the guy.
With an above average three-pitch mix, tremendous command, and a deceptive and repeatable delivery, Whitley seems like something special. He deserves to be higher on the D35 than 17th, but I'm still so weird about relief pitchers at the minor league level that I haven't seen at the majors. Truth be told, if I did the list all over again, I'd put Whitley just outside of the top 10.
Look at that beautiful pic by @Cardinalsgifs. What a mensch.
Thanks For Reading!!