It’s mid-summer. The skies are blue, save for the occasional smoky blast of a firework from somewhere in the distance. Evan White has hit a double. Some things always come at the right time. Last year I wrote about the 2017 first round pick and his adjustments to his hands and stance that coincided with a dramatic breakout and uptick in his slugging.
That torrid finish was music to the Mariners ears, and they promoted their 1B of the future to AA-Arkansas to start 2019. After a collegiate career with a flat swing that capped his pop, White seemed ready to blast off. But at the start of the season, White’s explosive power had fizzled. In 32 games and 137 PAs in April and May, White managed just a .248/.341/.333 line with a miserable .085 ISO. He was walking plenty - 11.9% - and not whiffing too much - 23.7% K-rate - but that doesn’t cut it for a 1B.
Like every hitter in Arkansas - particularly RHH - the home park is a major limitation. Dickey-Stephens is one of the most power-suppressing ballparks in baseball, mostly due to consistent wind that blows in from left-center. It’s something I wrote about when addressing Kyle Lewis’s struggles and it matters here as well. But since the start of June, Evan White has been hitting all the same, erasing the splits that once mirrored what Lewis has. It seems like his swing is approaching a consistent final form.
I won’t rehash the entire progression of White’s swing, but here he is shortly after making his adjustment late last year. His hands are lowered to start, but he proceeds to load all the way back up to his shoulder, largely negating the point.
He improved that path over the course of August and September, but the success didn’t translate to Double-A immediately. White’s early season struggles weren’t dramatic, and as mentioned above he continued to showcase good plate discipline, but the power wasn’t there. Here’s White’s swing, similar to the one above, from mid-May.
There’s nothing dramatically out of place with this swing, although on this particular hack he does pull his head fairly significantly. The hands are getting quieter, rising only slightly before bursting forward. But the hits weren’t coming. The increase in competition, more challenging home stadium, and continued slight inefficiency with his hands was conspiring to keep White from maximizing his exit velocity and turning it into doubles and dingers.
Then along came June.
Exit velo: about a kajillion.— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) June 8, 2019
Evan White had himself a game last night for Arkansas. pic.twitter.com/nEFDdrebmW
Congratulations Evan White!— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 3, 2019
Evan White's June:
691 (!!!) SLG with 8 HR https://t.co/8erbyt6Mwq
A 23-game hitting streak, slashing .371/.396/.691 and eight of his 10 HRs on the season. Like many hitters, the ball started flying as the weather heated up, but White’s been doing more than making the most of his summer vacation. Let’s turn once more to the Tulsa Drillers and their pristine video feed.
Again, it’s an incremental change, but the hands begin low and stay low. The load is slight, which could be an issue for some, but White’s hands are quick and his swing is powerful enough to generate lasers off the bat with little effort. On a grainier feed, we can see White’s swing by late June is hardly relying on a load in his hands at all.
Evan White’s 10th HR of the season. pic.twitter.com/qElsEd89Xw— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 1, 2019
In shortening his swing to such a degree, White is buying himself extra reaction time to identify pitches and make his swing/no swing decisions. Someone Mariners fans are familiar with that sets up in a comparable style, albeit a bit more wobble, is Jean Segura, whose lightning fast hands need next to no load to explode forward. If White can stay locked in with this compact approach, he should have lasting success combining his physical talent with strong mechanics and accessing his power. We’ll get to see him this Sunday at the MLB Futures Game against some of the best prospects in the world, but at this rate we should see him in Tacoma soon enough as well.