Robert D. Whalen
Height: 6'2" Weight: 225
Bats/Throws: Right / Right
Born: 01/31/1994 in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Offseason home: Kissimmee, Florida
Acquired: In trade from the Atlanta Braves, with Max Povse, for Alex Jackson and Tyler Pike (11/28/2016)
Salary: Not available
MLB Debut: 08/03/2016
Free Agent after: 2023 season
Twitter handle: @RobWhalen38
Whalen will begin the year with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, but his spring training performance was impressive enough to put him at or near the top of the list should the M's need a call-up early in the season. He got clobbered in his fifth start of the spring (eight earned runs in two innings), but in the prior four rode a dominating curveball to a minuscule 1.38 ERA. He throws a cut fastball and slider as well, and when he's on generates a lot of groundballs; conversely, if the outfielders are getting much to do, Rob may be headed for a bad day.
Whalen is certainly talented, but it's possible no one has seen his true ability yet. He has the misfortune of being afflicted with clinical depression and anxiety, which wasn't really acknowledged until last summer (though he had inklings after a brief chat with a psychologist in 2015). "It’s almost like an alcoholic admitting that he’s an alcoholic for the first time," Whalen said in a conversation with David Laurila of Fangraphs. "I couldn’t understand it, so how could I explain it to somebody else? I was in my early 20s and had made it to the big leagues. What did I have to be depressed, or feel sad, about? I have a great life. I’m blessed, yet I was miserable." In his debut with the Mariners last May—which would be an anxious moment for most young players—Whalen started against the Red Sox and barely held it together. "I was all over the place, and that was because I was having a frigging panic attack. I could hardly breathe out there." Back in the minors after that, Whalen reached a point where he had to step away and get help. He did so and has returned to action with a new attitude and a new energy. "I've dropped 20 pounds, I'm eating better, I feel great, I'm healthy and I think it's a good reset for me." Manager Scott Servais has taken notice of that and hopes to see Whalen back with the M's sometime soon. "I'm probably as proud of him as I am of any of our players," Servais said. "It's nice to see the smile back on his face."