Were talking to Mets pitching prospect Robert Whalen today. Rob was kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions for me.
The soon to be 20 year old righty was selected by the New York Mets in the 12th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Haines City (Fla.) High School. However, don’t let his low draft selection fool you as he’s quickly climbed up the Mets prospect list thanks to a combination of a killer curve, a great pitching savvy, and a bulldog mentality on the mound.
Robert’s 1.87 ERA was the second-lowest in the Appalachian League last season and was also the best mark in the entire Mets organization. He allowed just one home run all season and allowed three earned runs or less in all but one of his starts while posting a 9.5 K/9 and a 4.5 K/BB.
Without further ado, meet Rob Whalen…
Joe – Let’s get started, Rob… First off, you’ll be 20 years old in a couple of weeks, so let me be the first to wish you a Happy Birthday. You’ve got to be one of the happiest guys on the planet as you work your way to the major leagues to play for the team you grew up rooting for all your life. If you can put it into words for us, what has this whole experience with the Mets been like for you?
Rob – Thanks Joe I really appreciate it. You definitely hit the nail on the head, Being with this organization has been amazing and very surreal. Growing up rooting for this team, I would always joke around saying I’ll be a Met one day, and for that to actually happen is a dream come true itself.
Joe – Congratulations on such a great 2013 season. You’ve put yourself right onto our top prospects list with a dominating performance at Kingsport that saw you post a team leading 1.87 ERA and 0.926 WHIP. What can you tell us about your season, and what did you learn?
Rob – This season was a lot of fun for so many reasons. Obviously, for personal achievements it was amazing to be able to win the Sterling Award. It was a tremendous honor and something I will never forget.
The biggest thing for me this season was just being happy to be out there pitching again. I didn’t pitch at all after I got drafted so all I cared about was going out there having fun and let the rest take care of itself. As for what I learned, I learned quite a bit from our pitching coach Jonathan Hurst. He was a big part in the development of my sinker and changeup. Two pitches this season that were huge for me.
Joe – There are about 125 pitchers in the entire Mets organization, and out of all of them, Baseball America rated your curveball as the best they’ve seen in the Mets’ system. How did you feel when you first found out?
Rob – When I first found out that Baseball America ranked my curve as the best in the system, I was a little surprised because we have so many pitchers that have tremendous stuff. Obviously I was happy, but I also thought it was funny because so many “reports” after I got drafted said that I had “zero” secondary pitches, and that I’d be “at best, a bullpen arm.” So for me it was kind of like a “Hey, take that!” sort of accomplishment for me to all the doubters.
Joe – You got to play with a lot of talented young players like yourself in Kingsport. Which player impressed you the most and is someone Mets fans should be really excited about? Tell us what impressed you about him.
Rob – I did get a chance to play with some really good players this season in K-Port, the ones that stood out the most to me were OF Victor Cruzado, SS Amed Rosario, 1B Dominic Smith and 1B Zach Mathieu.
I didn’t really know Cruzado too much but he had a great season, one of our most consistent hitters from both sides of the plate, he can run, plays solid defense and just a great guy overall.
Rosario is obviously a big name kid and deservedly so. He has all the tools. He struggled at first, but continued to pick it up as the season went along and that’s what stood out. His confidence never left and he stayed positive and remained a great teammate throughout his struggles.
The same can be said for Zach Mathieu. His numbers weren’t very good, but this kid works his tail off. He was always at the field early doing extra work in the cage, trying to get his swing back on track. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen as fast as he wanted but he works so hard and when it is right, he’s got scary good power and he was by far our best defensive first baseman. For a big guy his footwork around the bag was impressive.
As for Dom, this kid has such a sweet looking swing, the power off his bat is unreal. He’s a great kid and his future is bright.
Joe – What are some of the fun things you did during your offseason? What TV series do you enjoy? Whats’s the best movie you watched in 2013?
Rob – My offseason has been a good one. Quiet and relaxing. Haven’t done a whole lot, but I’m returning to my hometown in Pennsylvania on Jan.22 for a week and I’m excited to see all my old friends and family.
Also, will be doing a pitching clinic for my old travel ball team while I’m there and I’m really looking forward to giving back to those younger kids and try to instill in them some of the great things I’ve learned with the Mets.
As for TV/Movies, I’m a huge Netflix guy. My main shows are Sons Of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, and Dexter. Best movie I saw in 2013 had to be Fast 6. Love the series.
Joe – Have the Mets given you your assignment for this year, do you have a hunch who you’ll be pitching for to start the new season?
Rob – I haven’t heard anything regarding where I’ll be pitching this season. I feel I’m ready for a full season of work and would love to pitch in Savannah this season and ultimately reach High A St.Lucie. Something I believe I can do.
Joe – What are your baseball goals for 2014 and what would you like to improve upon?
Rob – My goals for the 2014 season are simple. They are to stay healthy, make all my starts and keep making strides forward. As long as the ball is in my hand I control my own destiny. I would love to improve my changeup consistency, and command inside. I also have to be quicker in the stretch with runners on first who were getting too good of jumps of me.
Joe – As a Met fan, were you as disappointed in Mike Piazza getting snubbed by the BBWAA as many of our Metsmerized readers were?
Rob – I really feel bad for Piazza. To keep the guy out of the HOF is a shame. It’s all off of pure speculation. Writers have had 7 years to prove he’s used PEDs and they haven’t been able to do so. No excuse not to vote him in. They are playing judge, jury and executioner – and that’s not right.
Joe – I think it’s awesome that you chat with fans on Twitter and embrace the social aspects of it. Do you have any favorite Mets sites that you like to read when you are online?
Rob – I just try to be as interactive as I can be because I know what it’s like to be a Mets fan. I don’t really have a favorite site, I check your site a lot and MetsBlog a little bit, but I try to read blogs that are truthful and are putting out correct information. Y’all do a great job and I enjoy the articles you guys put out!
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Rob, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions for our readers. I look forward to seeing you pitch again this season as we follow your career with great interest and the hope that your journey takes you all the way to Flushing, NY in the future.
You can all follow Rob on twitter at @RobWhalen38. He’s a fun guy who loves life, baseball and the Mets, oh and the Walking Dead which just made him my new best friend.
(Photo credit: Robert Whalen, polkpreps.com)