2012 MLB Draft Q & A: Robert Whalen

Right-handed pitcher Robert Whalen

Up next in our series of 2012 MLB Draft Q & A's is Haines City High School(FL) pitcher Robert Whalen. Inside Whalen discusses his pitching arsenal and approach on the hill, what he is looking for from an organization on draft day, how his family made sacrifices to help him pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player, what pitchers he enjoys watching and much, much more.

For a complete scouting report on Whalen from Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere, see: 2012 Draft Scouting Report: Robert Whalen

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Rays Digest: You're being looked at in the draft - obviously you're a two-way player - more as a pitcher. What types of pitches do you throw? Can you give me a little scouting report on yourself?

Robert Whalen: I throw a four-seam fastball that has some tailing cut to it. I don't use a two-seamer or anything like that. I throw a curveball that I can usually get over for strikes most of the time. It's more of a 12-6 curveball, I take some off on that. My out-pitch is my slider and my changeup. My slider and my changeup I really just developed over these past two years. Actually, my senior year my changeup has really come along for me. My plan was to command three or four pitches and put myself ahead of other guys once I get drafted. That way once I get in the system, I already have three or four pitches that I can work worth. It's a fastball, curveball, changeup and slider that I usually use to get people out with.

Rays Digest: What's your approach on the mound? Do you kind of establish your fastball first and then work off that?

Robert Whalen: Definitely, definitely. People wanna call me a bulldog on the mound, or my teammates do anyways, because I'll go right after you and challenge you. I don't care who you are as a hitter. I don't care if your Albert Pujols, I'm gonna come at you and give you my best pitches. So yeah, I normally go after guys with fastballs early and try to challenge guys. If they hit the fastball, they hit the fastball. I want them to prove to me that they can hit my fastball, although I'll work my other pitches in. But normally I'm a guy that will go after you with fastballs and try to get ahead. I'll come after you with fastballs and mix in the curveball and changeup every once in awhile.

Rays Digest: So if you're going through the order the second or third time, and a particular hitter has proven that he can hit your fastball, then you might go to something else then?

Robert Whalen: Teams this year that attacked early on fastballs, I might go to the changeup on the first pitch and that's a pitch that's been very effective for me this year. Teams I know are aggressive and jump on the first pitch fastball, I might start them with a curveball, or more likely a first-pitch changeup. Normally I do go at guys with fastballs though. If I see that guys are sitting on the fastball and getting good swings on it, then I know I have to mix it up. It all depends on the hitter's swing and how they are locking in on me.

Rays Digest: You also play corner infield. Do you like hitting and fielding?

Robert Whalen: I love hitting and I've always been pretty good at it. If I went to a National League team, I'd kind of look forward to it. But I'm more of a pitcher. Pitching is going to lead me to where I want to be. I love hitting and I love the everyday player mentality of going out on the field and competing. When I'm on the bench and I'm not pitching - especially like at Mizuno when pitchers only pitch - when there is close games, I want to go up there and hit. I got to know my role, but yeah, I definitely love hitting.

Rays Digest: You currently have a commitment to Florida Atlantic. Are you going to be a two-player there if you end up going there?

Robert Whalen: No sir, just a pitcher. I mean they know I can hit, so you never know, I could be used as a pinch-hitter. They know I can play a good first base too. But for right now, it's just as a pitcher.

Rays Digest: The draft is just a little bit over a month away and you do have the commitment to Florida Atlantic. What things would you and your family be looking for from an organization to go ahead and sign as opposed to going to school? Would it be a money thing? Would it be how their development is of pitchers? What kinds of things are important to you?

Robert Whalen: I've always been a guy whose dream has been to play professional baseball. Don't get me wrong, FAU is a great school and I'm happy with my decision there. But I want to get my career started, so I'm looking really good right now to probably sign. Money is an issue with everybody of course, you don't want to be undervalued, but that's not the biggest thing for me. Mostly - like you said - it's trying to get with a good organization that develops arms and doesn't burn guys out. I mean there's good organizations for pitchers and there's bad organizations for pitchers, every team has there strengths and weaknesses. Right now, I'm just trying to find a team that is a good fit for me and I can maybe get through the system early. It's mostly just like that, trying to find a good fit for me. Of course money is an issue, but it's not my biggest thing by any means. My biggest thing is a team that will work for me and that I'm comfortable with.

Rays Digest: I don't know a whole lot about other teams, but I do know the Rays system very well. They are a system that is excellent at developing arms, especially high school arms. Their entire rotation right now is home-grown. Is that the kind of organization that would work for you?

Robert Whalen: Yes definitely, that's a good one. Teams like the Red Sox are good at developing pitchers and smaller market teams like the Rays. This is my fourth year in Florida and I've been following them pretty good. I love the Rays. I would love to play at Tropicana. It would be a great fit for me there. But yeah, teams like the Rays are perfect for me. But I'm happy with whoever.

Rays Digest: Do you have representation? Have you talked to any teams so far?

Robert Whalen: I have an adviser from Sports Meter. Most of the teams, they do those questionnaires and stuff like that. As of right now, I know there are 6 to 8 teams that are really interested in me and there are some that are a little iffy still. I still have a couple of more starts left with the playoffs starting for us. But right now there are 5 to 8 that are interested in me. Now I'm just trying to finish up the season and not worry too much about that and let my advisers take care of that for me.

Rays Digest: Are you planning on going to any pre-draft showcases or working out for teams when your season is over?

Robert Whalen: Right now I'm not sure about the workouts, because I have thrown a lot this year. If it's a team that's a good fit for me, then maybe I'll go do the meet-and-greets. But not so much throwing, except for maybe bullpens. I do have an All-Star game in Sebring after the season.

Rays Digest: What's your workout routine like? How do you prepare your arm for each season?

Robert Whalen: This year I did it a little differently. I transferred to a new school, Haines City, and the head coach is Dave Schafer, who's the dad of Jordan Schafer who plays for the Astros. He's great at getting guys in shape. He's a good trainer and a good coach. Before this year, I got hooked up with a trainer in Orlando at Titus Sports. There is a lot of guys that work out there that are going to get drafted, like Jesse Winker, Walker Weickel and guys like that. I did that this year. I did a lot of upper-body strengthening to try and strengthen my shoulder. I did a lot of running and did some abs and I really hammered my lower-half. I tried to get as strong as I possibly could for the season. It paid off early in the season. I was touching a few fours and fives. Normally I do a lot of long-toss during the season. We do a throwing program at our school, so we throw a lot. We stretch it out to like 130 to 140 feet, so we are throwing a good distance. I throw as much as I can in between starts and try to get my long-toss in and it keeps me going.

Rays Digest: Who are some of the people who have really helped you along the way and have influenced you as a player and a person?

Robert Whalen: Definitely my father. He's been great. I was an okay player in Little League, but I hadn't really developed into anything yet. But there was times when he pushed me. He told me "If you really want to do this, I'll give you every opportunity possible to succeed at it." That's wanted I wanted to do, so he pushed me. He got me on travel ball teams. He's driven me around most of the states here. He actually sacrificed his job. He retired early from UPS in Manhattan and moved us down to Florida four years ago. Scouts are down here. This was the best opportunity for me down here. So he actually moved down here for me. My old travel ball coach, Leon Frailey, from Pennsylvania, he's done a lot for me. He actually flew me down to Florida right before my freshman year to try out for the USA team. I made the USA team, but if it wasn't for him it wouldn't have happened. He heard about it and bought me my ticket. He's been great and a big influence in my life. I've know him for six or seven years. Guys like that, true people that stick around through thick and thin, really help you out and push you along the way.

Rays Digest: That's a great sacrifice for your dad to do that.

Robert Whalen: Yeah and my entire family. We all moved down here, so my mom and my sisters too definitely.

Rays Digest: On a personal note, what kinds of things do you like to do when you're not playing? What are your hobbies?

Robert Whalen: I'm one of those guys that all I do is baseball. I'm a senior now, so I try and hang out with my friends. But when I'm on my down time, I like to fish. Some of this stuff I picked up when I moved down here from these country kids. (laughing) I like to fish and I'll go hunting every once in awhile. I like to watch and go to games. Rays games and spring training games, I'll go to them a lot.

Rays Digest: Sounds like you kind of live and breathe baseball then.

Robert Whalen: Exactly. My mom complains sometimes because that's all I talk about. That's who I am. I've always been that way since I was a little kid. I live and breathe baseball.

Rays Digest: You said you go to Rays games, are they your favorite MLB team?

Robert Whalen: No. My whole family is from Queens, New York, so the Mets have always been my favorite team. But the Rays are definitely one of my favorites now. I just like the way they play. They're a young team and everyone always counts them out, but they come back and win. I watched that last game last year when Dan Johnson hit that home run. That was an awesome game. I love teams like that that never quit. That's kind of how the Mets are now. They have a young team and they are starting to do that now. I love teams like the Rays that people always count out, but they prove them wrong. That's ind of how I am. People said I couldn't do things. When I moved her e people thought me and my dad were crazy, but I'm starting to prove people wrong. They are seeing that I'm actually pretty good and have a good shot at going far in this game.

Rays Digest: Yeah. You're being talked about as being a high-round draft pick, so it seems like you made the right decision and your hard work is paying off. Who are some big league pitchers that you admire or try and model your game after?

Robert Whalen: There's a lot of guys honestly. I try and watch guys that have the same pitches as me. Guys like Beckett. Smoltz - I used to watch him pitch against the Mets all the time. Colby Lewis is a good guy to watch. He's like me. I top out at 93 or 94, but most times I'm working at 90 or 91 and he's like that too. He works off his fastball. He doesn't throw 97 mph, but he gets outs. Diilon Gee, he's a young guy with the Mets, he has almost the exact pitches I do. I used to love watching Pedro when he was on the Mets after his injury, because he didn't have that over-powering fastball and he relied more on his changeup, but he was still very successful.



John Gregg is Publisher and Senior Editor of Rays Digest. You can follow him on Twitter at @RaysDigest. He can also be reached via e-mail at raysdigest.com@gmail.com.

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