So far this season, there have been very few players worth watching on this Yankees team.
Yangervis Solarte has always been an interesting watch -- just when you think he's going to cool off, he goes on a spurt that makes you believe in him again. Jacoby Ellsbury was awful in May, but is riding a 16-game hitting streak into Friday. Dellin Betances strikes out everybody in his path. And the most watchable player, Masahiro Tanaka, might just win the MVP award this season.
Chase Whitley has only been in the big leagues long enough to make six career starts, but he's quickly becoming another one of those players worth watching.
Coming off of his first career victory, against the Kansas City Royals, when he tossed seven innings of two-run ball -- also the longest outing of his short career -- the rookie right-hander struck out six Seattle Mariners over 7.2 innings, permitting just two runs on five hits.
He didn't walk a single batter in either one of those starts, and has only issued three free passes in 33.2 innings.
It's not very often that the Yankees bring up a starter from the minor leagues and he has immediate success, but Whitley has done a swell job of holding his own so far, and has done a lot to help pick up a rotation that was only being supported by Tanaka while CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova sit on the disabled list.
If you want to compare the numbers, Whitley has actually been pitching about the same, if not better, than Pineda was before his pine tar suspension and injury happened.
Through his only four starts, Pineda had a 6.86 K/9, 1.36 BB/9, 24.6 GB%, while Whitley has a 6.42 K/9, 0.80 BB/9, 43.7 GB%. I think the biggest thing is that he gets a lot more ground balls, which, obviously, plays well in Yankee Stadium.
Those groundball numbers play to the fact that Whitley throws a good changeup, and also mixes in a quality sinker with his slider and fastball.
According to BrooksBaseball.net, Whitley threw 18 sinkers last, 17 for strikes, and 8 of 12 swings put the ball in play, and only one of those eight balls in play was a non-out.
Whitley still has a little way to go before I can be on board with the idea that he's going to be the real deal and a possibly third starter down the road behind Tanaka and Nova. As we saw last night, building up his pitch count is still an issue.
His career high for pitches was 91 a couple weeks ago against the St. Louis Cardinals, and up until the end of the 2013 season, he was a reliever not use to throwing a whole lot of pitches. He’s thrown more than 60 pitches in an outing just 13 times in his entire pro-ball career. But if the last two starts indicate anything, it's that he'll be able to work deep into games against teams that don't work counts well -- like the Royals and Mariners.
The Yankees really needed somebody to step up in the rotation when all of the injuries struck, and if it wasn't for Tanaka, Whitley would probably be the best rookie to take the field for the Yankees this season.