I've come across a couple of posts in the past week extolling the virtues of Frisco 3B prospect (or org guy depending on who you ask) Johnny Whittleman. Just so that it is clear what my position is, I'll just say it: Whittleman is not a major league prospect. First let's break it down at the macro level. JW has played in 500 games i the TExas system with 2009 his 5th year at age 22. His games/level break down this way: 50/AZL, 225/LowA, 147HighA and 76AA:
So 2009 has seen Whittleman regress back to his LowA #s of 2006 with a complete evaporation of his HR power, declining to a level comparable only to his rookie AZL debut where he hit ZERO. This year he had ZERO home runs in the first half. ZERO. He hit his first 2 in his 68th game on 7/4.
In general, Whittleman only has gap power, so insufficient power to man 3B in the majors without also being a plus defender (and with the correlative necessity of hitting in a lineup with power at other traditionally light-hitting positions like CF or 2B) -we'll get to that. So he has maintained his obp and gap(doubles) power this year while significantly reducing his strikeouts/9. All other #s have dropped of the cliff in a bad way. In addition, JW has been anemic vs Lefties this year, hitting .109 in 46AB and his .227 career average would likely limit him to a platoon role anyways, that is, if he could hit righties well enough (career .265). Not much hope here is seems, but it gets worse.
If Whittleman's career pattern is any indication, he will need to finish out the year in AA, then repeat the league again in 2010 at age 23 for about 80games hitting about .265, then play the second half in AAA hitting about .225. In 2011, he will play about 80 games in AAA at age 24 where he will finally be able to hit for average at that level. So by mid-2011, Whittleman will be in his 7th year and still not ready for prime time it would seem.
Ok so let's take a look at JW's defense and see if he can offer a ML team anything to recoup his deficiencies as a hitter -Gap power, poor splits, High walks, High strikeouts, Abysmal slugging %. Ok, I'll bite. Over the course of 400games(05-08) at 3b, his DFP is .896. That's right, .896. That is almost as shocking as saying "this 3B has ZERO HR after 70 games (and 8 in his last 222)". In terms of total errors for this period, he has 111, for a prorated error total on average of about 42E/150Games. His error rate and DFP remain the same this year as well.
So, now that it is clear that Whittleman is not a third baseman, can he be something else? He hits like a second baseman but can't field that position to be sure. What about LF? Given that he has never played a single game in the OF over his career, especially given his defensive deficiencies at 3B, one would presume that he doesnt have the athletic ability to play the position. Furthermore, his power would still rate as below average for most teams at LF, though for some, a doubles only guy might be sufficient production, presuming he can hit for average, giving him the benefit of the doubt.
So basically what he have here is an org guy, and, well, a bust as a second rounder, manning an important position in the minor league system but who may or may not make it out of AA much less make it to the majors. There is no shame in being an org guy in the end. They are the glue of any minor league system. However, let's stop letting out breathy exasperations of hope every time JW goes on a 5 game hitting tear. What is the latest example of this, evincing hopeful cheer - "You know, JW looks a little different at the plate these day, more confident, standing tall"; "The ball just sounds a little different coming of his bat now" - you ask? In his last 5 games (16ab), JW is hitting .440 with his only 2 HR of the year. What about the other months?
June(1st 25), .205
(Last 5, .440)
So if you are asking yourself why anyone would get excited about a 3B who hits like a seond baseman, plays fringe average defense(at best), can't play another postion, and would likely profile as a platoon player (if he could hit righties), well, so am I...