Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley suspended for violating drug program

50-game suspension a setback for Whitley (0:40)

Tim Kurkjian reacts to the news of Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley being suspended 50 games for a drug program violation. (0:40)

Houston Astros minor leaguer Forrest Whitley, one of the game's top pitching prospects, has been suspended 50 games for a violation of minor league baseball's drug program, Major League Baseball announced on Wednesday.

Whitley's suspension is without pay.

"Obviously as an organization we're going to suffer a little bit, but we're still hopeful and optimistic that Forrest can be a big part of our future," general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Whitley, 20, was the Astros' first-round pick in 2016 (17th overall). A product of Alamo Heights High School in San Antonio, Whitley advanced from low-A ball to Double-A last season. He was a combined 5-4 with a 2.83 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 92⅓ innings with three minor league teams last season, including four appearances for Double-A Corpus Christi in which he posted a 1.84 ERA.

Luhnow wouldn't provide details on what led to the suspension, but he did say Whitley was remorseful and he believes he will learn from his mistake.

"On the pitching side I don't have any concerns, he's going to continue to develop and this is part of maturity," Luhnow said. "When you're a high school player and you get drafted and you're a top prospect there's a lot of pressure that goes along with that role. And I don't know if that had anything to do with this, but there's a maturation process going from high school and the big leagues and this is one step along the way for him."

The Astros have fended off recent trade interest in the 6-foot-7 right-hander, who is ranked eighth among the top 100 prospects this spring, according to ESPN's Keith Law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.