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Rays prospect spotlight: OF Garrett Whitley

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Whitley has solid raw tools but struggled to start his career in the minor leagues

Jim Donten

When the Rays picked Garrett Whitley in the first round this year, it was questioned whether he would even fall that far. Baseball America ranked him as high as seventh in the 2015 draft class. The fact that the Rays were able to grab him at No. 13 was instantly considered an ingenious move.

At the time of the draft, many scouts raved about Whitley's speed, which was a consistent plus among all reports. In video, he makes every ground ball a close play with his quickness out of the box. The speed leads him to be an above average defender in the outfield, and MLB.com's report on Whitley says "he has a better arm than most players" in center field.

In pre-draft scouting reports, Whitley was criticized for lacking the ability to hit for average. Unfortunately, that rang true when Whitley reached the Gulf Coast League, and he hit for just a .188 average in 30 games there. With short-season Hudson Valley, Whitley did not perform any better in 12 games, and his average fell to a paltry .143. Christopher Crawford of Baseball Prospectus says Whitley's approach needs a lot of work, and Whitley has been criticized for facing pitchers who throw in the 70s and 80s in high school as opposed to players "in Georgia routinely facing guys who hit 90." Both of those factors could be attributed to his inability to hit for average.

On the other hand, Whitley has the potential to posses above-average power from the right side. While Whitley had a .188 average in the GCL, his power flashed with a .177 ISO, and half of his 18 hits were for extra bases, including three home runs. MLB.com gives Whitley's power a 55 rating.

Whitley has the ability to become at least a four-tool player with his speed, glove, arm, and power. If the contact comes around, it should augment his power and upgrade him to a five-tool player. His floor has been described as all speed and defense, but he has also drawn comparisons to prime Grady Sizemore along with Torii Hunter if the hitting comes together.

Video