Karsten Whitson is the very definition of "big, athletic, projectable right-hander", and we've seen over the past couple drafts that this is something scouting director Bobby Heck loves.
Whitson has already been clocked throwing as hard as 96 MPH, though he generally sits in the 91-94 range. Many scouts believe that he has room for more velocity, both by filling out his projectable frame and by cleaning up his lower body mechanics. He also mixes in a slider which flashes plus potential and a changeup which projects to be above average in time. Though he has some minor mechanical flaws, his delivery is easy and repeatable, and his command projects out to above average as he gains more experience.
The attrition rate on high school arms is still high, and though it has improved in recent years, they are always a risk to bust. Whitson is safer than most, though, as he's big and durable with easy velocity and a secondary pitch which is already a plus at times. Assuming he makes it to the big leagues, his floor is probably as a closer, working off his good fastball and slider. The hope, of course, is that he becomes a frontline starter, and that's where his ceiling comes into play.
Although all of his pitches require some projection to reach that level, Whitson has the potential to have three above average-to-plus pitches, including a chance at a borderline plus-plus fastball if his velocity develops the way scouts think it will. Although his command is a notch below average right now, much of that is due to inexperience, and it's thought that his athleticism and repeatable delivery will allow him to develop above average command down the road. If everything works out, Whitson could be an ace starting pitcher, and many believe he's the safest bet in this draft class to do so other than Jameson Taillon.
pick him? If so, where?
Whitson is just the kind of arm Bobby Heck likes, and I suspect that he does have a lot of interest in him. The trouble is, he's generally projected to go right in the middle of the first round, in between the Astros' eighth pick and nineteenth pick. Some mock drafts do have him lasting to #19, in which case the Astros probably pick him (unless they like Delino DeShields even more than I think they do). I would be mildly surprised to see Heck scoop him up at #8, but he wouldn't be a bad pick there, so it's possible.
Where is he projected to go right now?
Keith Law has him at No. 9 to the Padres.
Andy Seiler has him at No. 11 to the .
Deep Leagues has him at No. 13 to the .
Jonathan Mayo has him at No. 23 to the .
Perfect Game USA has him at No. 19 to the Astros.
Baseball America has him at No. 16 to the .
Frankie Piliere has him at No. 15 to the .
Kevin Goldstein has him at No. 19 to the Astros.
John Sickels has him at No. 10 to the .
Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)
Below the jump.
It's looking like a pretty strong year for high school arms, and Whitson should be near the top in any discussion about them. He's already big, strong and durable and he's got plenty of projection, meaning he might throw harder than his already mid-90s fastball. Add in a plus breaking ball and good changeup and he's got a very intriguring three-pitch mix already. Some tweaks to his delivery could make him even more dangerous.
Whitson has a special arm and a good feel for three pitches at an early stage in his development. Some tweaks could improve his effectiveness in the future, but as is he's easily one of the top few arms in the prep class, and arguably one of the top five arms in the entire draft class. He maintains his velocity and stuff through multiple innings, and could have three above-average to plus offerings once fully developed.
Has ceiling and just getting started – long way to go with his physical projection – chance to become three-pitch ML starting pitcher. Has the raw physical tools; needs experience and instruction. Potential closer candidate if third pitch doesn’t develop.