Updated: Dec 16, 2018
Prospect #32: First Baseman, Brady Whalen
Previously Unranked in offseason and ranked 33rd during July reranking
Drafted in the 12th round of the 2016 draft
State College Spikes
THE QUICK WRITE UP
Brady Whalen is one of my favorite high-risk, big-payoff prospects in the organization. He stands about 6'4" and he's right around 210 pounds. He has a smooth swing from both the left and the right side of the plate and he has power that is developing.
Whalen was drafted as a short stop but was converted to third base last season. That experiment did not go so well, so he's a first baseman now. He still struggles a little bit over there, but I appreciate that the Cardinals were willing to get him over at first this early in his development instead of waiting until he was older. He's super athletic for his size and it bodes well for his defensive future at first base.
Whalen profiles a little differently than anyone else on this list. He is a three true outcomes hitter, but a three true outcomes hitter that doesn't strikeout as much as similar-type hitters.
His strikeout to walk rate over the last two seasons has been marvelous and he does a really good job of fighting off tough pitches late in counts. He also shortens his swing late in counts to poke balls into the gap. He's speedy in a sneaky way, too, and he turned this into a double:
The main issue with Whalen is that he has yet to successfully hit both left-handed and right-handed at the same time in the organization. Last season, he couldn't buy a hit or a good at-bat right handed. So far this season, it looks like all of the work that he's put in has been on the right side and now the left side is struggling as a result. That makes it tough to evaluate and project Whalen. He's still so young, though, so maybe we should wait and see how that all plays out at seasons-end.
When you see Whalen's batting average you might scoff, but everything else makes me excited. I'm not going to make any brash claims about him as a future major leaguer or an impact player at the highest levels, but there's something intriguing about this young man. His development over the next couple of season is going to be one of the more provocative development in the system.
WHY TO GET EXCITED
While his batting average might give a baseball card-fan pause, that's the least of my concerns.
He possesses elite K-to-BB potential.
He has plus power potential, although it's only displayed as slightly above average so far.
His K rate is modest for the type of hitter he is and can be.
For being 6'4" and 200 pounds, Whalen is supremely athletic. He was drafted as a high school short stop.
THAT ON BASE PERCENTAGE. I feel like I'm saying the same thing just a few different ways, but his plate discipline is phenomenal. He's always going to walk and he'll always going to get on base.
Whalen truly "drives" the ball. Everything that he hits is hard.
His hitting-tool from the right-side of the plate continues to develop. It was a point of emphasis for him in the off season and the work that he put in is showing.
WHY TO BE CAUTIOUS
The inaccurately perceived "three true outcomes" approach at the plate gives some people cold feet when evaluating him.
A consistently low batting average.
Has yet to be able to hit both left-handed and right-handed at the same time. Until this season, he was basically a left-handed hitter that couldn't hit right-handed. So far this season, he hasn't been able to hit left-handed consistently but he's been magical while hitting right-handed.
There isn't enough of a sample yet to understand what he might be defensively at first base.
With a player as young as Whalen with the power and patience combo that he has, you just never know exactly how he'll progress. Sometimes a player like Whalen will try to hit for more power while trading in his walk rate for his more strikeouts. Hopefully it doesn't work out that way for Whalen.
Whalen is yet another young player that is hard to get a feel for. I love the modest K rate coupled with the great walk rate and developing home run and doubles power. There's a long way for him to go to get to the majors, but I think that his ultimate 5% chance of peak ceiling is 1B Carlos Santana. His more realistic ceiling is that of former Marlin, A, National, and Twin Josh Willingham, but from both sides of the plate. As always, I caution that there's a 20% chance at best of any player reaching their ultimate ceiling.
As always, Fangraphs supplies the stats and we are forever grateful for their involvement.
Thanks For Reading!