Rob Whalen’s Spring Has Been Exciting, But Not Surprising

BOSTON, MA - MAY 27: Rob Whalen
BOSTON, MA - MAY 27: Rob Whalen /

Few Mariners have helped themselves in Spring Training more than Rob Whalen. The RHP was recently optioned to Tacoma, but Mariners fans should expect to see him in the Majors before too long.

For most, what Whalen did this spring was a complete shock. After all, Mariners fan probably didn’t remember who he was. And if they did, he didn’t leave them much to be impressed with.

After appearing in 2 games with the Mariners, and 10 games with the Rainier’s, Whalen had posted a 6.36 ERA in 2017. Many fans chalked this up to another bad trade by Jerry Dipoto, who had acquired Whalen, along with Max Povse, in a trade with Atlanta in 2016.

However, Whalen later opened up about his struggles with depression. He left baseball for a time in 2017, to seek help with his problem. He returned this spring, and the help has done exactly what it should do; it helped.

Whalen has been fantastic this spring, minus his last disastrous outing against Cleveland, and has forced his way into the conversation of many fans. But while many focus on his spring, and his story, they overlook one important fact. Rob Whalen has been a really good pitcher in the minor leagues.

In fact, in 413 innings, Whalen has posted a 2.99 ERA with 363 strikeouts. This along with a 1.5 GO/AO ratio (ground out to air out), a 1.17 WHIP, and opponents hitting just .222 against him. So how is that a minor league stud averaging 8 K/9 goes unnoticed?

Simply put, nothing about Whalen’s game is sexy.His fastball sits at just 91 MPH. Boring. Yet is has good sink and run, producing ground balls. Whalen has good command, but not excellent. Lame. Who gets excited over a 3.1 BB/9 rate? Nobody.

But hey, Rob has an average changeup. Sexy right? Nope. In fact, the only plus tool Whalen has is his curveball. As we have seen this spring, when Whalen can spin it, he can be effective, both at inducing ground balls and missing bats.

A 55 or 60 grade pitch, with average tools across the board, isn’t sexy. Especially not when compared to flame throwing prospects. Whalen’s profile is boring. So boring, in fact, has Whalen ranked as the 21st best prospect in the Mariners notoriously bad farm system.

However, with prospects, and in particular with pitching prospects, the sum can be greater than its parts. Whalen’s feel for pitching, along with his curveball, give him a legitimate chance as a back-end starter.

Next: Ian Miller Says He is Ready to Help Seattle

Stop being surprised by Rob Whalen. No, he isn’t exciting. But he has a long track record of being good. Don’t confuse excitement with skill. If you do, you just might miss something great right under your nose.