April 14, 1982 |
Durham, North Carolina
|Bats: Left||Throws: Left|
|September 2, 2008 for the Arizona Diamondbacks|
(through 2009 season)
|Runs batted in||15|
In the minor leagues, Whitesell was a Carolina League mid-season All Star in 2005, and an Eastern League mid-season All-Star team in 2007. In 2008, Whitesell was voted the Diamondbacks' 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, a Baseball America Triple-A All Star, and the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year. Baseball America also ranked him the best power hitter in the organization, and as having the best strike zone discipline in the organization. Whitesell played for the Arizona Diamondbacks in Major League Baseball for parts of 2008 and 2009.
Heritage and early life
Whitesell is Jewish. When he made the majors, he joined, among other Jewish major leaguers, Brad Ausmus, Kevin Youkilis, Ian Kinsler, Ryan Braun, Gabe Kapler, Jason Marquis, Jason Hirsh, John Grabow, Craig Breslow, Scott Feldman, and Scott Schoeneweis.
Whitesell attended Rialto High School in Rialto, California, and pitched and played first base for the school's Rialto Knights, with teammate Ricky Nolasco who now pitches for the The Los Angeles Dodgers. As a sophomore he was a 1st-team All-Citrus Belt League and 1st-team All-San Bernardino County selection, with an 8–4 record and a 1.88 ERA. He earned the same honors as a junior, finishing with a 7–4 record and a 2.95 ERA.
In his senior season he had an 8–2 record, 1.74 ERA, and a .520 batting average. He was also a 1st-team All-CIF Division I and 1st-team All-Citrus Belt League selection, voted San Bernardino County Player of the Year by the San Bernardino Sun, played for the San Bernardino County North All-Star team, selected to the CBCA Southern California All-Star team, and played for US Team in the Goodwill Games against Japan in Long Beach. He graduated in 2000 with a 4.2 grade point average, 2nd in his class of 685, and was class salutatorian.
Whitesell played baseball for the Loyola Marymount University Lions (after having been recruited by California, UCLA, San Diego, Nevada, and Pepperdine), initially as a pitcher, from 2001 to 2003. The last series of his freshman year he was taking a lead off first when the left-handed pitcher gave him a "quick-pick." He fell back into the bag, tore his labrum, and needed surgery. Before that he had thrown 90–91 mph, but after surgery he threw about 84 mph.
Whitesell garnered 2nd team All-West Coast Conference accolades in 2003, his junior (and final) year, batting .340 with a .471 on-base percentage, .736 slugging percentage, 41 runs scored, 19 doubles, a team-high 15 home runs in 162 at bats, and team-best 47 RBIs. He also earned the league's Player of the Month award for February.
Whitesell, an engineering major, also won the Principal's Award for achievement in scholarship and service, and Superintendent's Award for academic excellence, earning a 4.0 GPA all six consecutive semesters.
Whitesell was voted a Carolina League mid-season All Star while playing for the Potomac Nationals in 2005, for whom he batted .293/.416/.524, and was voted the Eastern League player-of-the-week on July 23, 2006.
In 2007, Whitesell played for the Double-A Harrisburg Senators in the Nationals' system, where he hit .284/.425/.512 with 78 runs, 23 doubles, 21 homers, and 74 RBIs in 119 games. He was named to the Eastern League mid-season All-Star team, and was added to the Nats' 40-man roster over the winter.
Whitesell hit safely in 19 straight games from June 27 – July 18, 2008, batting .384 (28-for-73), the longest streak by a Sidewinder for the season, and tied for 4th in the PCL. He also had a 16-game hitting streak from July 23 – August 9, batting .525 (31-for-59) with 10 multi-hit games and 24 RBIs. Whitesell had a season-high 7 RBIs on May 23 vs. Sacramento.
In 2008 his 110 RBIs broke Lyle Overbay's team record from 2002, and was the fourth-most in the minors. He batted .328, with a .425 on-base percentage and 26 home runs. He also had 86 runs scored, and 36 doubles, in 127 games for Tucson. He finished the PCL season ranked 2nd in RBIs, tied for 4th in hits, and 7th in batting average. Whitesell led the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in home runs and RBIs, was 2nd in on-base percentage and slugging percentage (.568), and was 3rd in batting average, OPS (.993), runs scored, hits (156), and doubles. After the All-Star break, he batted .399 with a .497 on-base percentage and .696 slugging percentage.
Whitesell was voted the Diamondbacks' 2008 Minor League Player of the Year, the MLB.com pick as the Diamondbacks' player of the year, a Baseball America Triple-A All Star, and the Pacific Coast League Rookie of the Year (created in 1998 when the PCL expanded to 16 teams; previous PCL Rookies of the Year include Bobby Crosby, Félix Hernández, Jeremy Giambi, Chris Burke, and Howie Kendrick). Baseball America also ranked him the best power hitter in the organization, and as having the best strike zone discipline in the organization.
Playing for the Reno Aces in 2009, through May 5 (when he was brought up to the Diamondbacks), Whitesell was 2nd in the Pacific Coast League in on-base percentage (.477) and walks (20), 5th in batting average (.356) and hits (31), 6th in OPS (1.028), 8th in RBIs (20), and hitting for a .552 slugging percentage.
Through 2009, Whitesell had hit 113 home runs with a .394 on-base percentage and a .492 slugging percentage in seven minor-league seasons.
Arizona Diamondbacks (2008–09)
Whitesell made his major league debut on September 2, 2008. He collected his first major league hit, a single, against the San Francisco Giants on September 15, during his first start. Whitesell hit his first home run on September 21, against Colorado Rockies pitcher Steven Register.
In January 2009 FanGraphs writer Marc Hulet took the Diamondbacks to task for bringing back "aging pinch hitter Tony Clark", despite his 2008 line of .225/.359/.318, saying "it's quite possible that Clark will continue to struggle in 2009. His line against right-handed pitchers was just .198/.354/.248, which makes him almost useless against them if this was not simply a one-year fluke." He added, referring to Whitesell, "What makes matters worse is that the organization has some in-house talent that could possibly provide the same production – if not more – for half the salary.... Whitesell ... has more upside and creamed right-handed pitchers in 2008 at Triple-A to the tune of .342/.442/.602 in 342 at-bats. Whitesell ... did well in 2008 with runners in scoring position by hitting .331/.438/.586. Truth be told, there are not many – if any – unimpressive numbers in Whitesell's statistics from 2008. He deserves a shot, and Arizona could certainly benefit from replacing Clark with the youngster and allowing Whitesell to get his feet wet as a pinch hitter while also playing regularly at first base against right-handed pitching."
In February 2009, Diamondback President and CEO Derrick Hall, when asked whether Whitesell would be given a shot to make the major league team out of spring training, responded: "He sure will. He has so much raw power, it is fun watching him hit. He is a talented kid who catches a lot of coaches' and scouts' eyes." In late March, Manager Bob Melvin's assessment of him was: "The offense is legitimate."
In spring training, Whitesell led the team in on-base percentage (.429; best of all hitters with 30 or more at bats), tied for the team lead in home runs (3) and walks (11; despite receiving only the 11th-most at bats on the team), was second in runs (12), and tied for second in RBIs (12), while batting .308 with a .519 slugging percentage. During the last weekend before the season began, however, he was told that he had not made the team's opening day roster. "He had a great camp" said Melvin. "He's certainly a guy we wouldn't hesitate to (call up) if we did have an injury or something along those lines."
On May 6, Whitesell was called back up to the Diamondbacks, after hitting .356 for the Reno Aces with a .477 on-base percentage (2nd in the PCL) and a .552 slugging percentage. He took the place of Tony Clark, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Melvin said Whitesell would get a chance to play every day. On May 19, however, not even two weeks later, Melvin had been fired as manager and the team optioned Whitesell back to Reno.
On May 30, Whitesell was back with the team, and new Manager A. J. Hinch said Whitesell would start the following day and will get a "good, long look" the next couple of weeks at first base. Hinch said: "Really the only thing [Whitesell] hasn't conquered is the major-league side of it, because every time he goes down to Triple-A he performs very well". Despite batting .300 with a .447 on-base percentage in his second stint with the team, Whitesell was optioned back to Reno on June 19 when Tony Clark came off the disabled list and returned to Arizona (after a rehab assignment at Reno in which he batted .160, and during which he turned 37).
Clark was finally released in mid-July, and Whitesell was called back up for the third time in the season to replace him on July 16. Asked what he had been told by Diamondbacks management, Whitesell responded: "I just know that ... the first base job for 2010 is up for the taking, so I'm going to get a fair opportunity." He added that his game plan was to try to "relax and let the game come to me, as opposed to trying to do too much, and let your mind take you six different ways at once — where you just relax, and know it's the same game you've been playing the whole time, the game will come to you, and success will come."
Hinch said he expected Whitesell to be more comfortable at the plate now that he had had some experience at the Major League level, recalling that the first time Whitesell was up: "I'd joke with him about squeezing the sawdust out of the bat every time he got up to bat, he was so intense on making a difference. The second time [he was called up] he was a lot more relaxed." Hinch added, "We're excited to have Whitesell, obviously. He's done everything that he's needed to do in Triple-A. He's contributed a little bit when he got the opportunity here in the big leagues." Hinch spoke with Whitesell and Chad Tracy on July 17 and told them that Whitesell would get the bulk of the action at first base, starting four or five times a week "for the time being". He did not get the bulk of the playing time at first base, however, and was sent back to Reno in late August.
Washington Nationals (2010)
On December 28, 2009, Whitesell signed a minor league deal with the Washington Nationals. He also received an invitation to spring training. The signing represented a return to his original organization: Whitesell was drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 draft by the Montreal Expos, who would later become the Nationals. He played part of the 2010 season with the Nationals' "AAA" squad, the Syracuse Chiefs.
Japanese League (2010–present)
On June 7, 2010, Whitesell was acquired from Washington by the Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and signed for 30 million yen (roughly $327,000) for the remainder of the season. His early results were impressive. Through Aug. 22, 2010, he was batting .324 with 10 HRs and 34 RBIs in just 136 at-bats. In addition, Whitesell was leading the Swallows in on-base percentage (.436), slugging percentage (.647), and on-base plus slugging (1.083). His rate of one HR per 13.6 at-bats was the club's best. And despite having no experience with the larger Japanese strike zone, few teammates were walking more often than Whitesell. He batted .309 for the season, with a .399 on-base percentage and a .591 slugging percentage.
On December 28, 2011, Whitesell signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines.
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