Sleeper Spotlight: With A Chance To Start On Opening Day, Is Evan White A Must Target Option?

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In a somewhat surprising move, the Seattle Mariners signed Evan White to a long-term contract by giving him 6-years and $24 million guaranteed (along with three options, which could bring the contract to 9-years and $55.5 million). For a player who spent all of ’19 at Double-A it was an aggressive move, but one that speaks to the potential that the team sees in him. Drafted 17th overall in ’17, White performed well last season:

.293 (107-365), 18 HR, 55 RBI, 61 R, 2 SB

The assumption was that he’d open the year at Triple-A, which may still happen, but with service time no longer a question a jump directly to the Majors is a realistic option. The actual numbers may not back it up, but it was impressive production in a league that is generally seen as pitcher friendly.

That also doesn’t mean that there aren’t questions, as he posted a 12.4% SwStr% while benefiting from a .346 BABIP. That immediately calls into question the potential upside in his average, especially given the sizable jump in his SwStr% (9.8% at High-A in ’18). There’s a chance that the number continues to rise against more advanced pitching, and that could ultimately expose him:

  • Strikeout Rate – 23.0%
  • Walk Rate – 7.3%

Could the strikeout rate rise, especially if he makes the jump to the Majors, into the 28-29% range? That would be a scary mark, though he also could adjust quickly. Interestingly it wasn’t his average/approach that was seen as a question, with MLB.com saying last year:

“Because of White’s advanced approach at the plate, a willingness to draw walks and the ability to make consistent hard contact, few question his ability to hit. He’s already shown the ability to send line drives to all fields, and an adjustment he made late in 2018, lowering his hands in his setup, started to allow him to create leverage and tap into his raw power more effectively, as he slugged over .700 in August.”

He needs to find the balance between power and average, and it’s something that should come with experience. It’s also clear that he’s unlocked some power potential, especially when you look at his home/road split:

  • Home – .260 with 5 HR
  • Road – .321 with 13 HR

Even more interesting is looking at the strikeout and walk rates, which also were better at home:

  • Home – 24.18% strikeout rate / 5.49% walk rate
  • Road – 22.02% strikeout rate / 8.72% walk rate

So part of it simply could be not being comfortable in that home ballpark. Maybe the balance already is there, he just needs a better ballpark to display it. Will it happen? It’s possible, and there’s a chance it comes together immediately. That would put him in line to potentially be a .270+ hitter with 25 HR at the highest level, and while that wouldn’t make him a blow away start at 1B it would put him on the map and create a viable CI option.

Sources – Fangraphs, MLB.com, MILB.com

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