Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley has been suspended for fifty games, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The ban is drug-related, per the report, though it is not clear just what improper substance Whitley was deemed to have used.
Whitley, a 20-year-old right-hander, greatly elevated his stock in 2017. Indeed, many outlets now consider him one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, with only the uniquely situated Shohei Ohtani drawing greater plaudits. Baseball America, MLB.com, Baseball Prospectus, ESPN.com, and Fangraphs all rated Whitley within the top ten overall pre-MLB players in the game in their most recent rankings.
Typically, fifty-game bans are handed out for drugs of abuse or amphetamines rather than performance-enhancing substances. In this case, Chuck Miketinac of FOX San Antonio says (Twitter link) a source told him that Whitley took an “unknown stimulant” to help keep him awake on a drive. The youngster intends to challenge the suspension, per that report. JJ Cooper of Baseball America notes (Twitter links) that the official release on the suspension does not follow the typical template utilized either for drugs of abuse or PED bans and also stands out because it does not state there was a positive test.
Clearly, there’s still quite a lot that is not known about the situation. Whitley himself released a statement through his agent (via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart, on Twitter) in which he accepted responsibility and apologized. Astros GM Jeff Luhnow says he’s disappointed in what has transpired but also says he believes Whitley will learn from the situation. (Video via Twitter, also from McTaggart.)
Whitley, a 2016 first-rounder, reached the Double-A last year, compiling 92 1/3 innings of 2.83 ERA ball with 13.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 across three levels of the minors. He will be eligible to return around the end of May and will likely work out in the meantime at the organization’s spring facilities, per Jake Kaplan of The Athletic (Twitter links).