Fisher, Whitley named Astros' Prospects of the Year
By Brian McTaggart
The Astros thought so highly of outfielder Derek Fisher and right-handed pitcher Forrest Whitley they refused to include them in any trades this summer, despite a wealth of suitors. Both could be on the verge of being impact players in the big leagues.
Fisher, a left-handed hitter, made his big league debut this year and was hitting .218 with five homers and 17 RBIs for the Astros heading into the final day of the regular season. The bulk of his season was spent at Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .318 with 21 homers, 66 RBIs and 16 stolen bases.
Whitley dominated at three separate Minor League levels this year despite pitching the entire season at 19 years old, going 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA with 34 walks, 78 hits allowed and 143 strikeouts in 23 games (18 starts) between Double-A Corpus Christi, Class A Buies Creek and Class A Quad Cities.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLBPipeline.com staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list and played the entire year in the organization.
Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said Fisher's unusual speed and combination could spell stardom in the future.
"Fisher had a spectacular first half and that put him on everybody's radar at the [Trade] Deadline," Luhnow said. "We had to look at our roster next year and the year after that, and there's a spot for left-handed-hitting outfielders that can play all three positions and hit for power and run well and all the fundamental things he needs to do to be a star. He's got a chance to be a really good player for us."
Selected by the Astros with the 16th overall pick in last year's MLB draft, the 6-foot-7 Whitley led the Minors in strikeouts per nine innings (13.94) as he zoomed through the system.
"For a young high school pitcher to go through his first full season in the Minors and all the way to Double-A, it's a pretty historic pace, and well-deserved," Luhnow said. "He has the stuff to pitch lights-out at every level and has the stuff to continue to dominate at the highest level.
"I couldn't be more excited about it. In my opinion, he's probably one of the top two or three pitching prospects in the game right now and a guy that could figure into our team towards the end of next year, if not sooner. That's exciting."
Whitley said he learned a lot in his first full season in pro ball.
"I'd say just really learning how to pitch and reading the hitters would be the biggest thing and reading their swings and how they react on different pitches," he said. "That was something that was really able to sink in this year and not really so much my first season, right after I got drafted. This season was big in that aspect."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.