Padres Scouting Report: Brian Whitaker

When you are a 27th round draft pick in the MLB Amateur Draft, the odds are stacked against you. Have two seasons where your ERA is sub-3.00 and the scouts and coaches start murmuring that they need to take another look in your direction. Such is the case for San Diego Padres farmhand Brian Whitaker.<br><br>"I like Brian Whitaker a lot, good sinkerball, slider pitcher. He is really improving as a pitcher," Tye Waller, the Director of Player Development for the Padres, said.

Brian Whitaker may have the best control of any player in the Padres system. Over two seasons in the minors, spanning 247 innings, Whitaker has walked 36. That equates to just over one per nine innings pitched.

In 164 innings at Fort Wayne, Whitaker had an ERA of just 2.09. Looking at his 7-6 record no one would know it.

"There were no runs scored for Brian," one Padres scout tells us.

That would do it. But it didn't bother Whitaker.

"He has the perfect attitude," said the scout. "He just completely rolls with the punches. He gets a ton of ground balls and can get himself out of trouble."

What Whitaker did do well was keep the ball down. He has an excellent cut fastball and sinker. The 23 year old throws his fastball in the 88-92 range and keeps the ball in the zone. He relies on his defense to make plays behind him.

"I actually expect as he moves up, he will do better," the scout continued. "As these guys progress, they quit swinging at a whole lot of bad pitches and start hitting the ball the way it is supposed to be hit. So you got a guy throwing a good sinker, they are going to hit more ground balls and he will have a better defense behind him."

Better would show in his win totals. He is 12-14 through two minor league seasons, but his ERA is a slim 2.37 and 22 runs against him were unearned in 2003. That is almost a run per game in his 26 starts.

Whitaker's ability to keep the ball in play and keep men off the base paths in the form of walks led to a 1.03 walks + hits per inning pitched ratio (WHIP). That is down from a 1.19 WHIP the year before. When starting pitchers start hovering around the 1.00 line in the WHIP category, they are approaching the Pedro Martinez's of the league -- few and far between.

No one is claiming Whitaker is Martinez, but he is keeping men off base with his pinpoint accuracy.

"He has great control," Wizards' broadcaster Terry Byrom said. "He had a no hitter into the eighth inning.

"With Whit, he is the kind of guy that you knew right away, you knew in the first couple of innings that this could be a night where he could throw one. There would be times he would just be dominating. Not so much from a strike out point of view, just two hoppers to shortstop and third base. These guys try to pull everything, it is just a routine ground out."

At 24, Whitaker benefited from a four year college, North Carolina-Wilmington. That also has placed him behind in terms of prospects and the league they are playing in.

But that could change rapidly, according to Byrom:

"He did have pretty decent strike out numbers as the season went on. It would not surprise me at all if he skipped California; especially given he is a four year college guy. It wouldn't surprise me if he either skipped or didn't spend much time in California at all."

Denis Savage can be reached at

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