Forrest Whitley, the Houston Astros’ top pitching prospect, has been recommended to undergo Tommy John surgery, per Mark Berman. Whitley is getting a second opinion, which is pretty standard, and it could be that he opts to go the rest and rehab route rather than the surgical route, though that will remain to be seen.
This is just the latest blow for the beleaguered 23 year old righthander, who was a consensus top 10 prospect in baseball heading into both 2018 and 2019, and who has been ranked the #1 prospect in the Astros system by Baseball America ever year since 2018, but who has faced a number of setbacks since. Whitley, a first round pick of the Astros in 2016 (#17 overall) out of Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, was dominant in his first full season as a professional, putting up a 2.83 ERA with 143 Ks in 92.1 IP in 2017, and making it all the way up to AA. That shot him up the boards, and had expectations very high coming into 2018.
Whitley missed time in 2018 due to a 50 game drug suspension, an oblique injury and a lat injury, which limited him to 26.1 innings for the year, all at AA Corpus Christi. He followed that up with a disastrous 2019 season. He began the year at AAA Round Rock, where his command deserted him, and he ended up first being put on the injured list, and then sent down to the Rookie League and then the Carolina League for a pair of starts at each spot before coming back up to AA Corpus Christi. All told he had a 7.99 ERA in 59.2 IP over 18 outings in 2019 during the regular season, though he did perform well in 6 starts in the Arizona Fall League.
Whitley spent the 2020 season at the Alternate Training Site, and again it seemed likely he would make his major league debut, but he ended up getting shut down due to what has been variously described as a forearm strain and as elbow pain. Arm soreness earlier this week shut him down again. If he does undergo Tommy John surgery, he would not be expected to return to action until sometime in the first half of the 2022 season.