Brian Whitaker began the year with Lake Elsinore but that didn't last long. He made five starts with the Storm and went 1-2 before being promoted. He may have been on the losing side record-wise but he was giving his team a chance to win each time out.
He allowed seven earned runs in 31.2 innings of work for a 1.99 ERA. The Storm simply couldn't pull out the sticks and give him the support he needed. If the bats were responding, the fielding wasn't. He ended up with four unearned runs and in the two games when runs scored when they shouldn't have, he took the loss.
Getting runs scored for the sinkerballer isn't something that is new to Whitaker. He went 7-6 with a 2.09 ERA for the Fort Wayne Wizards in 2003. Despite a career ERA of 2.79 in the minors, Whitaker is just 21-25.
While he kept the opposition to a meager .083 batting average with runners in scoring position, he did allow four homers, which caused some initial concern.
"He is a sinker ball guy and when he keeps the ball down he is very effective," Tye Waller, the Padres' Director of Player Development, said. "When he gets it up that is when he gets knocked around. That is the best way of saying it; with him if he keeps the ball down and stays ahead of hitters he will be effective."
He was ticketed to Mobile where he ended the year with an 8-9 record but a solid 3.73 ERA.
Streakiness badgered Whitaker throughout the season. When he was off, he was up in the zone and getting tagged. It wasn't something he was familiar with. He had walked just 36 in 247 innings over two seasons coming into the year but walked 36 in 137.2 innings for Mobile.
Thirty-eight of his 57 earned runs came in his nine losses and in seven of those losses he allowed four earned runs or more. By contrast, he allowed just 19 earned runs in his other 14 starts for the BayBears.
Whitaker combines a sinker with a slider and cut fastball. He tops out at 92 miles per hour and when he keeps the ball down he gets a lot of ground balls. For the year, he averaged 2.09 ground ball outs to fly ball outs (207 to 99).
"You look at his numbers – he had solid numbers," added Waller. "I am proud of the job he did. That 8-9 record is not indicative of the way he pitched."
At 25, Whitaker is at his potential and will likely begin the year in a stacked Triple-A starting rotation. He is seen as a Brian Lawrence clone, someone who can eat up a lot of innings and get the wins as long as he keeps the ball down. The one thing Whitaker cannot do is be disappointed by his record. He has proven he can continually keep the team within striking distance and has to feel comfortable that the support will eventually come.
Prospect Profile: Brian Whitaker
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