Exit Interview 2020: Kodi Whitley

After every season (dating back to 2012), we’ve spent time looking at every player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals that season.  They might have gotten a couple of innings, they might have played every day, but if they played, they get a post.  Usually, I like to term this like the players are packing up their locker and then seeing Mike Shildt before they head off for the winter.  This year, of course, was anything but typical.  So we’ll look at every player, we’ll take in some of their stats, but we won’t be giving out grades this season or delving too much into the positive/negative.  There are just too many variables in the Year of COVID for that to be reasonable.  As he has for the past few years, cardinalsgifs has lent his enormous talents to our header image and we thank him for it!

Player: Kodi Whitley

Season stats: 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 4 G, 4.2 IP, 2 H, 1 HR, 1 BB, 5 K, 4.48 FIP, 0.643 WHIP, 9.6 K/9, 0.1 bWAR

Postseason stats: DNP

Statcast: 18.2% barrel %, 87.3 exit velocity, 36.4% hard hit %, .375 xwOBA

Best Statcast category: Did not qualify

Worst Statcast category: Did not qualify

Hero/Goat: None


Overview: There was a lot of buzz going into spring training about Whitley and he didn’t do anything in Florida to disabuse those impressions.  Even though he wasn’t on the 40-man roster when he arrived in Florida, by time Summer Camp was over and the season actually got started, the expanded rosters gave him an opportunity and he went “north” with the team.  It might have been a temporary thing until the rosters were trimmed by two (and then by two again) but it gave him a chance to make an impression.

Which is what he did in his first two outings in July.  Combined, he threw 2.2 scoreless innings against the Pirates and the Twins, striking out three in the process.  The future seemed bright for the young man, at least until COVID hit the team.  Not only did he contract the virus, but his stay on that injured list was expanded due to some elbow trouble.  He didn’t return until the last week of the season, where he basically picked up where he left off against the Royals and the Brewers.  It’s tough to say that two innings after his return inspired people with confidence, but they were good innings that were in line with his early work.  That gap between them, though, makes you wonder what might have been.  Could he have been a dominant rookie reliever, in the line of Todd Worrell and Jordan Hicks?  Would the league have made adjustments and would he have been able to adapt?  A lot of questions still surround Whitley, but in the limited sample, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Outlook: Assuming the elbow trouble is out of the way, there’s no reason to think Whitley won’t be on the 2021 Opening Day roster.  He could be optioned to Memphis if there’s some sort of roster crunch, but I would expect that they’ll start him in the big leagues unless there is a pressing reason for them not to do so.  Hopefully we can get a full season out of him and see what he can do.  If he’s able to have success like he did in limited 2020 action next year, the end of the bullpen (especially with Hicks returning) could again be a real strength of the team.

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