IT’S SPRING TRAINING WEEK YA’LL, and unlike in years past, Mariners’ brass has made it clear that this spring in Arizona will feel a little different, with big league camp featuring more top prospects looking for a little top-level exposure and fewer full-fledged veteran position battles. With six of the last seven prospects we’ve previewed being present at major league camp, minor leaguers are going to factor significantly into your 2019 Mariners Spring Training experience, so if you haven’t been following along, I’d advise you to get caught up on the series here.
Evan White is a prospect unicorn.
In the tech startup world, a “unicorn” is a privately-held company that’s reached a valuation of $1 billion. There are plenty of success stories for companies that don’t reach a billion dollars, sure — something tells me that I’d be very okay selling my company for a cool $750 million, if I had to — but getting your itty-bitty startup to a billion-dollar valuation, and reaching unicorn status, is the goal.
In baseball, however, the term “prospect unicorn” isn’t quite so flattering. I mean, there aren’t a whole lot of players like Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., for example, but he’s not a unicorn. Instead, a unicorn is a player who doesn’t quite fit the mold, who stands out amidst a sea of normally-developed baseball players. And the Mariners’ #4 prospect fits that description to a T.
Just how different is Evan White? Consider:
- He throws lefty but hits righty.
Per The Daily Herald, Evan “throws and writes left-handed, yet kicks right-footed, and hits, shoots and dunks right-handed.” You’d think that a natural lefty would stick with hitting from the left side of the plate, especially given the inherent platoon & defensive disadvantages to doing so, but that’s not how White rolls.
David Laurila of Fangraphs asked him about it last summer:
- He’s a first baseman with minimal power and plus baserunning.
When you think of first basemen, you might think of Logan Morrison, or Richie Sexson, or Dae-Ho Lee, or RyOn Healy. In other words, you think of big, burly guys with lots of power and not so much speed. White, on the other hand, has decent wheels; although he has only five steals in his professional career, Fangraphs graded his baserunning as a 60, and no other first baseman in their top 100 prospects even reaching a 40 grade.
He’s also not likely to win a Home Run Derby any time soon, although his 11 homers and .303/.375/.458 slash line last year in A+ ball is nothing to sneeze at. John wrote an incredibly in-depth article last summer exploring his swing change in detail, and based on his impossibly torrid .363/.454/.703 August, he may have discovered some latent power with that adjustment.
Regardless, his unicorn status is rounded out perfectly by...
- ...his otherworldly defense. (Yes, at first base.)
When drafted, the Mariners said they wanted to keep him at first base, but many prospect evaluators floated the idea of moving him to center field. Assuming he sticks at 1B, scouts haven’t been shy in calling him a perennial Gold Glover down the road, and it’s not hard to see why. The guy can flat out pick it.
Evan White proved again today that he can really pick it at first. Did we mention the @Mariners' No. 2 prospect made our 2018 All-Defense team in January? https://t.co/JmacBajuew pic.twitter.com/D9PGjkuNEK— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 25, 2018
The 2017 first-round selection has embraced his unique profile even as scouts & evaluators have been a little slower in doing so. He topped out at the #90 spot per both Fangraphs and The Athletic’s Jim Bowden. Given how well he hit in 2018, White could easily split time between AA and AAA in 2019 and contend for a spot on the Opening Day roster in 2020.
It’s dangerous to rely heavily on a prospect who’s never seen meaningful time above Modesto, but given how good White has been thus far, one would be remiss not to dream of Evan White, Mariners 1B for years and years to come.