Prospect Countdown: #49 Eli Whiteside

Inside The Warehouse follows up on its Top 50 Prospect List with a detailed scouting report on #49 Eli Whiteside

Since becoming the Baltimore Orioles' 6th round pick in the 2001 draft, Eli Whiteside has looked like everything from an everyday catcher to a career minor leaguer. As a 24 year old in AA Bowie, Whiteside posted a .253/.310/.495 batting line and followed it up with a promising campaign in the Arizona Fall League. Unfortunately, he's followed that up with two mediocre performances in AAA Ottawa. Meanwhile, Orioles fans have had to endure Geronimo Gil, Robert Machado, Chris Widger, and others do their best impersonation of a major league catcher. Whiteside remains on the cusp of being a contributor at the highest level, but the Orioles can't wait forever. 2007 could be a critical year in determining his career path.

DOB: 10/22/79 Height: 6-2 Weight: 203 B/T: R/R

Eli Whiteside's age 26 season:

Level AB BA OBP SLG HR SB CS BB/AB K/AB
AAA 315 .244 .278 .413 11 1 3 .03 .23
IL AVG. -- .259 .326 .390 -- -- -- .09 .20

Offense

Eli got off to a very slow start, hitting for a .422 OPS in April. By the time he got his bat going in the second half of the season, it was difficult for him to bring his numbers back up. Whiteside did manage to slug .455 or higher in three different months and he even hit .303 in July.

Proponents of Whiteside have always pointed to his strong frame and plus power at a premium defensive position. Nevertheless; he has very poor pitch recognition, below-average bat speed, and a long swing. Combine all these factors and you can see why Whiteside has difficulty maintaining any semblance of plate discipline. His batting average will likely always be low, as will his on base abilities. Whiteside may actually be able to sustain his .169 isolated power (SLG-BA) at the highest level, but that's not very impressive if he can't hit over .220 and is making an out in almost 75% of his at bats. Another problem with Whiteside is that he also has a slight reverse platoon split, hitting .226 this season against lefties. If he could mash lefties a bit better, it would be easier to define his role at the highest level.

Defense

Eli Whiteside is known across the minor leagues for his strong arm, which rates as high as any catcher's in baseball. He's been criticized in the past for only having average agility behind the plate in the past, but he's worked hard to improve his now above-average footwork. Coaches were also unanimous that Whiteside is a capable game-caller.

Outlook

Whiteside is most likely to spend his career on the AAA insurance/third catcher continuum. His defense, especially his strong arm, will keep him employed for the foreseeable future, but Whiteside has work to do to become a solid backup catcher in Baltimore. Eli told ITW earlier this season "I'm going to show up strong in spring training and, hopefully, there's a spot for me [in Baltimore]." If he dedicates himself to tightening up his strike zone and better recognizing breaking balls, he could be right.

Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com


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