Editor’s Note: A.E. Schafer aka the red baron has once again compiled a rather impressive list of Cardinals prospects doing a write-up on 40 individual prospects. As a convenience to our readers, he releases the list in a couple big chunks so everyone can read about all of the prospects at once. While that is a convenience to all of us who eagerly await the arrival of prospect lists, it might not be as convenient if you are looking for a player’s particular scouting report. So, as a further convenience, we are putting the individual scouting reports in separate posts to make individual players easier to find. You can find the full lists on our 2018 prospect page here. —CE
#29: Brady Whalen, 3B
6’4”, 180 lbs; Bats/Throws: Switch/Right
DOB: 15 January 1998; Drafted Rd 12 2016
Level(s) in 2017: Johnson City (SS), State College (SS+)
Notable Numbers: 24.8% K, 10.4% K-BB (JC), 18.8% K, 10.1% K-BB (SC)
So, what’s so great about this guy?
In going from Jacob Patterson to Brady Whalen, we are careening from one end of the spectrum to the other a bit. By that, I mean Patterson is, while still unpolished, a narrowly-defined talent whose future is going to be almost entirely summed up by how well one or two tools develop. If Patterson succeeds and makes it to the big leagues, we’re looking at a limited number of outcomes. Brady Whalen, on the other hand, has as many potential outcomes as any player in the system, and as risky a profile as just about anyone.
Whalen was a high school pick in 2016 as a switch-hitting shortstop with intriguing power potential from both sides of the plate and makeup that garnered rave reviews from the couple scouts I spoke to who knew of the kid. In other words, if we took Dylan Carlson and made him a middle infielder, there’s Brady Whalen.
Even at the time, though, Whalen was thought to be too big to stay up the middle over the long haul, and he moved to third base pretty much immediately in pro ball. He does have a huge frame, with tons of room to add strength, so picturing him at short long term was never in the cards.
An interesting thing has cropped up in the first two seasons of Whalen’s pro career, though. While the power potential that was pointed out in high school has shown up only in fits and starts, with his quality of contact probably being the weakest consistent skill on his card, Whalen has shown an absolutely remarkable approach at the plate. In his first taste of pro ball, he walked 9.6% of the time, against just a 10.8% K rate. This year, he struck out a bit more often against Appalachian League competition, at a little over 16%, but his walk rate jumped up to just shy of 15%. A near-1:1 K:BB from a player this young is incredibly unusual, and honestly a little tough to contextualise.
Whalen did post a .195 isolated slugging this year, showing off some of that power potential, but his BABIP was just .236. Could be a fluke, of course, but in 2016 his BABIP was an even more dire .188, and what little I got to see of Whalen this year seemed to include a lot of popups and weak fly balls. If pressed, I would lean toward the low BABIPs being more representative of inconsistent contact than simple poor fortune.
Defensively, Whalen fits well at third. Solid-average arm, pretty good hands, moves around well over there. He’s not fast, but he has pretty good feet from what little I’ve seen. He should be able to stick at third, but there’s always the concern that maybe he gets bigger, slows down, and ends up without the mobility to play anywhere but first base. If that’s the case, the bat would have to play way, way up, and his prospect stock would fall way, way down otherwise. Personally, I don’t think that’s a huge concern, but there is that caveat to keep in mind with a guy this young who has a lot of filling out to do.
Probably my biggest concern right now with Whalen is that he’s not a very good hitter from the left side. Righty I like him, quite a lot. Lefty, oof. His timing isn’t good, and all his struggles basically flow from that. He could probably drop switch-hitting and go strictly right-handed, but that should be a conversation for a little further down the road, I think. The advantages still outweigh the developmental hurdles for now, I think.
If he’s good, it will look like: Physically there’s no resemblance whatsoever, but the offensive profile for Whalen, at least so far, reminds me a lot of Carlos Santana, the recently-signed new Phillies first baseman. If Whalen can carry that kind of profile up the ladder while staying at third base, he’s going to be a hell of a prospect. The left-handed struggles and the positional question not being 100% settled just yet are the big concerns here, though. Still, if asked to wager, I think Brady Whalen is a good bet to jump up these rankings this time next year.