It is hard to imagine Josh Whitaker being overshadowed. First off, he is a 6-3, 225-pound beast of an athlete. He led Augusta Christian Schools to three consecutive state titles during his outstanding prep career, and he is now playing baseball professionally. However, he has not gotten the full attention he deserves.
In 2005, as a sophomore, he hit an astounding .485 at the plate and led ACS to a state championship, however, that season a scrawny freshman named Nolan Belcher burst on the scene.
Belcher yielded only one earned run all season to steal some of Whitaker’s glory. In 2006, Whitaker batted .507 and again led Augusta Christian to a state crown. Once again, Belcher (now at Greenbrier) stole his glory, going 15-0 with 156 strikeouts on the mound as Greenbrier finished 35-1 and captured its fourth state title.
That Greenbrier team also featured Rich Poythress, Brandon Cumpton, and Jeff Rowland, all of whom would help steal headlines from Whitaker over the next few years. While Whitaker signed at Kennesaw State, Belcher went to South Carolina, Rowland and Cumpton headed to Atlanta to play at Georgia Tech, and Poythress was a starter as a freshman at UGA.
Then, Whitaker was drafted in the 25th round by the Oakland A’s in 2010, but Rowland went in the 21st round to Detroit, Cumpton went in the ninth round to Pittsburgh, and Poythress (who had been drafted in the second round by Seattle in 2009) led all of pro ball with 130 RBI in 2010. Yes, Josh Whitaker came along at the wrong time, to be honest.
He hit .366, .485, .507, and .473 in his four years of prep baseball, he won three state titles, and he finished his career at ACS with 27 home runs, 35 doubles and 144 RBI. Yet he did not get the attention he deserved. Sure, he was all-county four straight years, and earned first team honors each of his last three seasons. However, he was never player of the year, and always seemed to have to fight for recognition because of the tremendous group of young men he grew up playing with and against in the county.
Well, all that may be changing for Whitaker. The slugging right fielder is off to a sizzling start for the Midland Rockhounds, Oakland’s Class AA affiliate in the Texas League.
Despite battling a shoulder injury, Whitaker is crushing Texas League pitching. Through 25 games he is leading the league in hitting at .333 and OPS at 1,002. He is also tops with a slugging percentage of .626, which is 81 points higher than anyone in the entire league.
He was especially hot from May 6 through May 14. In those eight games, Whitaker hit .452 (14 for 31), with 5 HR, 7 runs scored and 11 RBI. In all honesty, what he has done this year should not be a surprise. After all, he hit .326 with 17 HR and 68 RBI in just 396 at bats in 2011. He followed that up by blasting 20 HR in just 99 games (386 at bats) in 2012. Last season, his average dipped a little to .256, but he had 25 doubles, 12 HR, and 57 RBI in 86 games. This season, however, may be the breakout season that gets the folks attention in Oakland. The A’s currently lead the Majors in wins with 28, but if Whitaker keeps up his current pace it will be impossible for A’s management to ignore what he is doing.
Here is his 2014 season at a glance:
Category Whitaker’s Number Rank in The Texas League
Batting Avg. .333 1st
Home Runs 8 2nd
*(The two players with 9 HR have 145 and 143 at bats to Whitaker’s 99)
RBI 26 3rd
*(The two players with more RBI have 158 and 151 at bats to Whitaker’s 99)
OPS 1,002 1st
Slugging .626 1st