As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rays camp, it was No. 11 prospect Garrett Whitley.PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Garrett Whitley was the Rays' first-round Draft pick in 2015, taken No.
As part of MLBPipeline.com's visit to all 30 Spring Training facilities, we'll be sitting down with prospects and getting to know them a little better. At Rays camp, it was No. 11 prospect Garrett Whitley.
PORT CHARLOTTE, Fla. -- Garrett Whitley was the Rays' first-round Draft pick in 2015, taken No. 13 overall out of the high school ranks in upstate New York. After he struggled during his pro debut that summer, a hamstring injury delayed his 2016 debut. He did bounce back to play well in the New York-Penn League, especially down the stretch, when he hit .324/.400/.500 in August.
MLBPipeline.com: This is your second Spring Training. How much more comfortable are you with what this process is like?
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Whitley: It's kind of hard to put into words how much more comfortable I am. Knowing what to expect and knowing so many more people here, understanding the process of Spring Training, what it's like when everyone breaks camp, what to expect for a full season, it's really relaxing, almost. Instead of being worried about what's going to come next, I know what's going to come next, so I can focus on baseball. It's calming.
MLBPipeline.com: You struggled a little during your pro debut, then you got hurt last year, holding you back, which must have been frustrating. Things haven't gone exactly according to plan, have they?
Whitley: Not exactly, but everything is a process. And that's different for everyone. Part of mine was having to rehab last year. That was a pain. That was really, really frustrating, especially since it took twice as long as it should've because I reinjured it coming back. I was almost healthy right at the end of Spring Training, then I did it again. That was tough. I'm not happy that it happened, but I learned a lot from it. I know a lot about my body now, a lot about what I need to do to stay healthy and feel my best every day. As an athlete, I feel I'm much better for it.
The people we have in this organization have been amazing with helping me and all the other young guys get accustomed to the pro game. I think we have the best training staff in baseball. I know we've won awards for it and I can definitely see why. The guys we have in there, they're always working with us, checking in on us and making sure we do what we need to do. Our coaching staff is great, too, more from a mindset place. It's getting you ready every day and having you prepared to do your very best.
MLBPipeline.com: A lot of guys from the Northeast like to settle down here for the warm weather. How often do you go home to upstate New York?
Whitley: I actually spend a lot of time back home. I have a 15-year-old brother and a 13-year-old sister. I like to spend time around my family, but especially for them. It feels weird being away. We're close, so not being a part of their everyday life is a little bit strange to me still. I try to spend a good amount of time at home, so I can see my brother's basketball games, and my sister dances, so I can go to her stuff, too. He plays baseball, too. He's a catcher. He has some ability, for sure. He's good. Clearly, everything he learned, he learned from me. Talent, we have some good genes, I'll tell you that. My dad played basketball and tennis in high school, then he walked on to the volleyball team at UMass in college.
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MLBPipeline.com: Have you noticed the Northeast, cold weather learning curve at all? Have you caught up to the kids from California, who played year-round?
Whitley: It's tough to say. In certain aspects of the game, I definitely felt like I was a little bit behind once I got here. Not in major ways that would prevent me from continuing to play. Stuff that comes from not being able to play year-round, things like the number of balls you see off the bat in batting practice, routes I'm getting in the outfield, baserunning things. I feel like now, coming into my third season, I feel caught up for sure. I feel a noticeable difference in my abilities in the outfield, the routes I'm taking, the balls I can get to. I always could get to a ball in the gap, but I feel my range is better and I feel more comfortable on the basepaths, all the little things that come from playing more.
MLBPipeline.com: You tweeted recently about how Chris Archer bought Chipotle for everyone on the Minor League side. It might seem like a small gesture, but what does it mean for guys on this side when someone like him does something like that?
Whitley: Honestly, it's really amazing. Archer is a great dude. Doing things like that are obvious, but he even does small things. I'm an A-ball player right now and he'll come up to me and say hello. We have a lot of good guys like that on our big league side. It's great to know they didn't forget where they came from, they're not trying to act all big time. They know what we're going through. It's great to know we have that kind of people in our organization and that not everyone changes when they get to the bigs.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.