Prospect Profile: Kevin Whelan

The Tigers selected Kevin Whelan out of Texas A&M this past summer, and after a rough first pro outing, Whelan was practically unhittable the rest of the way out, as he emerged as the Tigers' top relief prospect. Is Whelan good enough to make it all the way to Detroit this season?

Kevin Whelan
Position: Relief Pitcher Height: 6-0 Weight: 200
Born: 1/8/1984 Bats: Right Throws: Right

Background
Whelan came to the Tigers as a 4th round draft choice in the 2005 amateur draft, out of Texas A&M University. He joined the Aggies as a catcher in 2003, but never really got it going behind the plate. After some struggles during his freshman, and early in his sophomore campaign, Whelan gave pitching a try because of his very strong arm. Kevin had some growing pains during his first season as a pitcher, but worked hard and improved his craft dramatically heading into his third season. After a sparkling display in the 2004 Cape Cod League, Whelan rejoined the Aggies, posting a 2.90 ERA and striking out nearly twelve batters per nine innings. After signing with the Tigers for $265,000, Kevin went on an absolute tear, dominating both New York-Penn league and Midwest League hitters. Kevin's totals during his brief professional debut included a net 1.48 ERA, 15+ K/9, 5:1 K:BB, and 15 saves in 25 appearances.

Scouting Report
Any discussions of Kevin's baseball ability should begin, and nearly end with one thing; his big-time arm. On the mound, he sits comfortably in the 92-94 range, touching 96 regularly in game situations. Despite being able to touch 96, it doesn't always benefit him in terms of making quality pitches. When he over-throws, he not only loses some control, but also loses some of his potentially devastating movement. When throwing free and loose, Kevin's ball has a bit of late explosion that rides in on right-handers, inducing a lot of soft liners and weak groundballs. Offsetting his fastball, Whelan relies on two variations of a split-finger pitch. Both pitches have out potential, but lack consistency in both control and late bite. He'll need to develop at least one of these offerings to maintain his success at higher levels. Kevin is not a great athlete, and frequently struggles to repeat his mechanics. This problem could easily go away as he gains more experience on the mound, but until he does, he'll be at an elevated risk for injury. Due to his inexperience, he often struggles with some of the nuances of pitching. Things like setting up hitters, using his pitches wisely, fielding his position, and being in proper backup position still escape him, but he should improve them all with more innings on the hill. Overall, Whelan has the arm and talent to become an elite late inning reliever, but he still has some significant maturating to do.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

WHIP

SS-A

Oneonta

1-1

2.25

11

0

4

19

6

12.0

0.67

A

West Mich.

0-0

0.73

14

0

11

22

2

12.1

0.49


Health Record
With so few innings under his belt, Whelan's arm is still fresh and has been free of injury. He'll need to begin repeating his mechanics better to avoid future injury, but for now, his bill of health is clean.

The Future
After dominating in the late innings for both Oneonta and West Michigan during his professional debut, Whelan will head to Lakeland to start the 2006 season. With an outstanding spring, there is a chance the Tigers could push him to AA-Erie, but that chance is slim. Kevin has electric stuff and one of the highest ceilings in the entire system, but he's also got some of the most work to do. If Kevin can prove that his gains during his pro debut were for real and not just a product of facing inexperienced hitters, then he could fly through the system and see Detroit for good sometime in the 2007 season. The Tigers love his raw ability, and will push him quickly if his performance warrants it. He has a great chance to be the first player from the Tigers 2005 draft class to reach the Majors, possibly late in 2006 as a September call-up.

Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.


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