Josh was born in Durham, North Carolina on April 14, 1982, and played high school baseball in Rialto, California.
He later played college ball for Loyola Marymount University and was a top level student-athlete throughout his time as an amateur baseball player.
His freshman year, 2001, ended on a sour and painful note when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder while diving back into first base on a pick-off attempt by the pitcher. That was effectively the end of his days as a pitcher, but fortunately Josh was a very successful hitter as well.
Indeed, his power at the plate would carry him into the pros.
After hitting .340/.471/.736 during his junior year of university, he was drafted by the Montreal Expos in the sixth round of the 2003 draft.
Whitesell made steady progress during his time in the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals minor league system, and he was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks before the beginning of the 2008 season. He would go on to be voted the Diamondbacks most valuable minor league player that year. He had a brief stint with the top club that season as well.
Whitesell played first base for the Arizona Diamondbacks for portions of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. His MLB slash-line over 115 at-bats was .200/.352/.313. Unfortunately, Whitesell was never given a consistent look at first base in the majors and largely ended up yoyoing back and forth between MLB and AAA. Many observers believe that he could easily have nailed down the everyday job at first base, especially against right hand pitching, if he had been given more than a couple of weeks at a time to settle in and get used to playing baseball at the top level.
Welcome to Japan!
Josh Whitesell was signed by the Tokyo Swallows just after the end of the miserable Takada era to compete with Jamie D’Antona for the starting job at first base. Despite Takada’s unceremonious resignation at the end of May, 2010, Whitesell was still signed away from the Washington Nationals’ AAA affiliate, Syracuse, to help provide some pop from the left side of the plate.
Whitesell hit the ground running and had an immediate impact despite having missed more than two full months of the season. He ended up playing in 68 games that year and batted .309 and had a .991 OPS with 15 home runs and 136 total bases. Interestingly, he hit better against lefties (.371) than righties (.286) in 2010 which was not entirely in line with his scouting report. In 2011, however, he hit just .205 against southpaws and .264 against righties.
Even though the surgery he had back in 2001 to repair his labrum was successful, it has left him favoring a sidearm throwing motion that is more comfortable for him and effectively prevents him from making a transition to the outfield. While quite unorthodox for a first baseman, his sidearm technique is highly accurate and he has shown good glove work in Japan.
Whitesell re-signed with the Swallows for the 2011 season but saw limited action at first thanks to a breakout year from Hatakeyama. He logged only 299 at-bats and hit .247/.345/.428 in 2011.
Josh was released by the Tokyo Swallows following the 2011 season, and he signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines of the Pacific League before the end of the year.