13 November 2006

Pending Pinstripes Prospect Profile: Kevin Whelan

Kevin Whelan, RHP
Full Name: Kevin J. Whelan
DOB: 8 January 1984, Kerrville,TX
Ht: 6' 0" Wt: 200 Bats/Throws: R
College: Texas A&M University
Drafted: Tigers's 4th-round (120th overall) pick in 2005.

Part of the swag from the Gary Sheffield trade, Whelan was initially a catcher in college, but didn't hit much, and was converted from catching to pitching in 2004, his junior year. After spending his entire senior year as the ace reliever for an Aggies team that finished 9th, with a 9-18 record in the Big 12 Conference, (30-25-1 overall), Whelan was drafted by the Tigers last year. He anchored the bullpen for that lackluster team, going 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA, a team-best four saves and 40 strikeouts in 31 innings, though he also walked 20 batters.

Pro Career:
After the draft, the Tigers took the cautious approach with him, placing him in the NY-Penn League (Short-Season), where he struck out 19 and allowed only two hits (but six walks) in his first 12 innings of work. That got him a promotion to West Michigan in the Midwest League (A-ball), where he was even better. He allowed only 4 hits and two walks in 12 and one-third innings while striking out 22 and allowing only one run in 14 appearances. Granted, this was a polished, 21-year old collegiate relief ace playing against a lot of 19- and 20-year olds with less experience, but to some degree, success is still success.

Obviously ready for a tougher challenge, but still without even 25 innings of minor league experience, the Tigers kept Whelan on the slow-and-steady road, pushing him to the High-A Florida State League in 2006, where he stayed the year and did pretty well. With a little more exposure, his control was again shown to be his biggest weakness (29 walks in 54 innings), but he continued to otherwise embarass the opposition, striking out 69 batters and allowing only 33 hits all season, while going 4-1 with 27 saves and a 2.67 ERA that was considerably better than the league's collective 3.79 ERA.

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