Baseball is known for its love affair with speed and power. Whether it is the home-run derby, a fascination with the steal, or even a 90’s Nike commercial, this a trend that has certainly not gone away. Players such as Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, and Bryce Harper have been dominating the game with that same equation, a group that can be looking to add one more to its rankings sooner rather than later. The Tampa Bay Rays 11th overall prospect Garrett Whitley has the tools to excel at the next level. The first player to ever be drafted out of his town of Niskayuna, New York, the 21-year-old has plus skills with his blistering speed, raw power, and above average arm in center field. At a moments notice the young outfielder is more than happy to steal a base or crank a homer, willing to do whatever is asked of him on the field.
Whitley spoke about baseball’s love affair with speed and power, two of the biggest facets of his game. “A lot of people in baseball say speed never slumps, you know you can always run no matter how you are swinging the bat or feeling that day you can always run,” Whitley explained. “I’m hoping after a lot of development I can bring a complete player to a big league team.”
After being drafted number 13 overall in the 2015 draft, Whitley has high expectations from many in the organization and around the league. Expectations he came closer to realizing with his best professional season yet in 2017. With big contributions on both sides of the ball for the Bowling Green Hot Rods, it was a big step forward following an adjustment period coming into professional baseball. Despite the relative success, he understands he still has a great deal of development and room to grow before his dream becomes a reality. It is his desire to grow that keeps the Rays prospect hungry to get better each and every day.
He describes himself simply as “motivated,” a term he expressed with a determination and drive in his voice. While the outfielder may be exposed to the high expectations he has garnered since his days of amateur ball, they trail in comparison to the expectations he puts on himself.
“I have high expectations of myself more than anyone could have ever put on me. So whatever expectations I guess I felt from other people, I never really put much thought into it,” Whitley explained. “Every time I go out I want to be the best player on the field and I think that I have the ability if I play my game and I execute what I am supposed to do, that I can do that on any given day.”
Despite his tremendous expectations for himself, the 2015 draft pick understands that consistency has been something he needs to improve upon if he wants to get to the next level. Being his own harshest critic isn’t something new, however, as it was a lesson taught to him early on in his life. Surrounded by a family that consistently went out of their way to support the future minor leaguer, Whitley was taught specifically by his father not to let anyone outwork him, that it doesn’t matter how much talent you may have, instead, it’s how much work you put in. Whitley would explain further “you can have all the talent in the world, but if you aren’t willing to put in the work there is only so good you are going to be.” This lesson he applies universally regardless of the job or the age,” It doesn’t matter if you are my age or 30 or 9 and just starting, If you want to be really good at this you can get better. If you want to get better it is worth the work.”
Even with the grueling workouts, high expectations, and life of a minor league baseball player, at the end of the day, Whitley is just a 21-year-old finding his way. When he isn’t running the bases the New York native can be found running around the tilted towers in Fortnite, watching the NBA, and most importantly to him being a good older brother to his siblings. When it comes down to it, being a good older brother to his siblings provides him with a sense of achievement and purpose as he gets to be that role model that he has worked hard to be. Specifically being given the ability to coach his brother’s teams and camps while in high school was a special opportunity, something that no matter how much success he achieves he will always look back fondly on.
Labrum surgery today…tough times only make the strong even stronger. Best believe I’m gone come back better than ever pic.twitter.com/UF3dQQy3Sd
— Garrett Whitley (@RealGWhit) March 30, 2018
After speaking with Whitley, he unfortunately suffered a season-ending injury at the end of spring training. He will be out an extended amount of time but it doesn’t change his motivation and focus. Whitley explained his next steps moving forward,”my goals for my development are basically the same. Rehabbing an injury is always hard, but I’m just going to put my all into every day and I’m going to do my best to stay positive through the whole thing. It’ll be a long year and I know that, but now I just have to look forward to next year and make sure that I am in as good of a position that I can be going into it.”