While it’s still very early in the 2021 season, it’s clear the Red Sox found a gem in the Rule 5 Draft. After a disappointing 2020 season that left the roster full of journeymen, Chaim Bloom had the flexibility to take calculated risks on players that could develop into mainstays. Enter Garrett Whitlock. The former New York Yankees prospect was selected and has been nothing short of spectacular since joining the club.
To say expectations were low for Whitlock would be an understatement. The Rule 5 Draft, while a fun short segment of a long offseason, doesn’t have a track record of producing long tenured players. As of 2019, nearly 50% of Rule 5 selections were returned to their original clubs. Despite that; Chaim Bloom has shown the willingness to make these selections with Jonathan Araúz last season and now Whitlock.
Garrett Whitlock flashed potential throughout his minor league career, posting a 2.41 ERA largely as a starter in the Yankees system. So, how on earth did Brian Cashman let him go? Whitlock underwent the dreaded Tommy John surgery in 2019 and spent all of the bizarre 2020 season rehabbing. It’s quite possible that the New York Yankees felt like they could sneak him through the Rule 5 process since he was recovering from his operation. Clearly, they were incorrect and the Boston Red Sox are better off as a result.
In Spring Training, the reliever allowed one run over nine innings. In similar fashion, Whitlock has allowed zero runs over nine innings of work during the regular season, while striking out eleven. It has been extremely impressive thus far, but can he keep it up?
In short, there is statistical evidence that shows Garrett Whitlock will experience some regression, but his metrics don’t indicate any reason to believe Whitlock will slow down too much. He only has an allowed BABIP of .158, meaning there is a likelihood that more balls find their way through for base hits at times. However, he ranks among baseball’s elite in plenty of categories.
If you’re into Sabermetrics or Advanced Statistics, then feel free to obsess over that chart. Otherwise, I’ll simplify it for you. Garrett Whitlock is getting a ton of swings and misses, allowing very weak contact, and throwing strikes. You love to see that.
In terms of a comparison, Whitlock profiles very similarly to Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Devin Williams as a reliever. Both arms predominantly throw a fastball / changeup while mixing in an occasional breaking ball. Williams utilizes his changeup nearly 50% of the time, while Whitlock utilizes his around 35%. Last season, Williams was a breakout star for the Brewers, posting a 2.18 ERA out of the bullpen. If Whitlock is capable of producing similar numbers, the Red Sox are in a fantastic place.
As a starter, he’ll drastically need to amp up his breaking ball usage. Alex Cora has already hinted at the long term plans within the organization that involve stretching him out as a long man this year, and eventually, becoming a piece in the starting rotation. He currently utilizes his slider 4.2% of the time, which will need to continue to get better in order to have a clear three pitch mix over multiple innings.
Yes, Garrett Whitlock’s performance appears to be sustainable thus far. He has been a revelation and doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Another key piece to a strong start for the Boston Red Sox.
Photo Credit: Billie Weiss / Getty Images
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