Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that it has suspended Forrest Whitley, who is widely seen as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball, for 50 games over a violation of the league’s drug policy. Whitley’s suspension will begin at the start of the Texas League season, as he currently is on the roster of the Corpus Christi Hooks, the Houston Astros’ Class AA affiliate. The Hooks play their 51st game on May 29.
MLB did not announce the specific nature of Whitley’s violation. According to the minor league drug policy, however, a player is given a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a banned stimulant, which is what Fox San Antonio’s Chuck Miketinac is reporting:
Miketinac later corrected that Tweet to say that Whitley was returning from a college football game, not a college baseball game.
“MLB has released the information that they’re going to release. I’m not in a position to release any information beyond that,” Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow told the Athletic’s Jake Kaplan.
The Astros chose Whitley, 20, out of his Texas high school with the 17th pick of the 2016 amateur draft. Last year, he went 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA, 34 walks, 78 hits and 143 strikeouts in 23 games (18 starts) across 92 1/3 innings at Corpus Christi, Class A Advanced Buies Creek and Class A Quad Cities. The right-hander led the minor leagues in strikeouts per nine innings (13.94), and Baseball America lists him as the second-best pitching prospect in all of baseball behind the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, the Japanese import who likely will not play in the minor leagues.
Late last month, the Astros announced that Whitley would spend spring training with the club’s minor leaguers, a decision that reportedly was not unexpected because of the World Series champion’s already-strong rotation. Luhnow told MLB.com then that Whitley still could be a late-summer call-up, though the prospects of that happening now seem much cloudier.