Whitley’s story is similar to Lewis’ in that he was considered to be arguably the best pitching prospect in baseball back in spring. And why wouldn’t he be, based on his deep arsenal, his starter’s frame, and his success in the minors? Alas, Whitley’s year didn’t play out as planned. He exited the weekend having accumulated an 8.60 ERA — yes, really — in 52 innings, as well as 39 walks and 11 home runs. Factor in how he missed more than a month due to injury, and there isn’t much positive to be gleaned from this season.
Royce Lewis, SS, Twins
When Sheffield was traded over the winter to the Mariners as part of the return on James Paxton, the hope was that he could step into the big-league rotation sooner than later. Sheffield did make his debut this year; he also struggled in Triple-A — to the extent that the Mariners demoted him to Double-A, where he made 12 appearances and seemed more in his element. There’s no telling what the future holds, but if Sheffield can’t improve his command then he may end up in the bullpen.
Forrest Whitley, RHP, Astros
Maybe it’s unfair to include McKenzie due to injury, but he hasn’t pitched this season and the biggest question mark about him entering the year was his durability. Remember, McKenzie missed a chunk of 2018 due to a forearm issue. He strained his back in spring, and hasn’t been seen since. He has a quality arm and a bright future ahead of him if he can stay on the mound, so here’s hoping next season is a healthy and fruitful one.
Estevan Florial, OF, Yankees
Now, onto the Watch.
Triston McKenzie, RHP, Cleveland
Speaking of injuries, Florial didn’t make his season debut until June due to a broken wrist. It would be understandable if the rust impacted his play but boy oh boy. Despite repeating High-A, Florial walked less often and fanned more often. He did hit for more power, perhaps due to being more pull-heavy, yet his overall seasonal line is just .239/.301/.390. There were already concerns about his bat heading into the year and this effort won’t help put those to bed. It’s a shame because Florial’s secondary tools give him an intriguing ceiling.
Justus Sheffield, LHP, Mariners
Lewis, the top pick in the 2017 draft, was a reasonable candidate to become the No. 1 prospect in baseball following the graduations of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. So much for that. Lewis and his altered swing scuffled to the tune of a sub-.700 OPS across High- and Double-A. His walk and power numbers (which weren’t outstanding to begin with) each regressed from their 2018 levels, too. Because Lewis is a below-average defender at short, his bat is more important to his profile than the typical middle-infield prospect. As such, the Twins can only hope he can find some mechanics that fit him better ahead of next spring.
Let’s get to it then.