Coatesville, Pennsylvania outfielder Lonnie White Jr. is a man among boys.
A three-sport star at Malvern Prep, White has a decision to make when it comes to the MLB Draft and professional baseball. As revered as he is on the diamond, he’s a 4-star wide receiver recruit to Penn State University as well.
Originally a commit to the University of Clemson, White flipped his pledge to the Nittany Lions in 2020 after being told he’d be able to play both sports in State College, PA. We’re not just talking about a three-sport high school star, we’re talking about a prodigious athlete with immense ceiling in whichever route he ultimately takes.
White has been on record saying “it’s probably going to take a lot” to get him off of his commitment to Penn State, but his name has been surging up draft boards over the last couple months and he’s now firmly at a place where being selected in the first round is a very real possibility.
At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, White is a full-grown man. He’s extremely physical and his strength and maturity show in every aspect of his game. Despite his size, his athleticism points to a potential future in centerfield where his loud tools suggest an impact player at an up-the-middle position.
Beings that White is fully-matured, there’s not a ton of projection left in his ultra-physical frame. Sure, he has the ability to add muscle and mass, but the frame itself is set. The general rule of thumb for guys that have reached their physical cap is whatever they’re doing to a baseball currently is essentially what you should expect moving forward. White may settle in closer to 6-foot-3, 215 pounds by the time he debuts, but scouts want to be sure the physical foundation of the swing and actions in the field are pro-ready.
And they are.
Where White will continue to blossom, should he choose baseball over football, will be on the mental side of the game. He’s never truly dedicated himself to the diamond. White has always had to balance his development on the baseball field with making sure he gets in time to catch passes and shoot free throws. With full-focus being placed on his growth at the plate and in the field, a more complete hitter could take shape.
Tools (Future Value)
White reminds me specifically of two big leaguers for two separate reasons. The swing reminds me a great deal of Justin Upton while the overall package looks like Avisail Garcia. We’ll get to that...
White has a very short, compact swing that’s direct to the ball without much noise in the hands or body when he locks into his loaded position. The swing itself, the bat path, the timing triggers and everything that goes along with it... there’s a lot of Upton in there. Having seen the best stuff in the country last summer on the showcase circuit, White was consistently on-time and showed he could handle bigger velo and sit back on breaking stuff. As he continues to get reps at the plate, focusing on his craft, the belief is he’ll continue to settle in and get comfortable against premier pitching.
White had a big summer in 2020 despite its oddities and uncertainties. Over 38 plate appearances he slashed .294/.368/.529 with two homers and two doubles. More importantly, he generated a healthy 25-percent whiff rate and a 23-percent chase rate, striking out just five times over that span, good for a 13.1 percent K-rate. It’s not a huge sample size, but that’s an awfully mature approach, especially for his archetype, especially for a guy who hasn’t dedicated as much time as others to his craft.
As White continues to get his feet wet and continues to see more and more advanced pitching, I think you’re looking at a guy who puts bat on ball more often than not and, thanks to his strength, finds a lot of green grass as a pro.
Given the frame and strength, you’d hope White presents formidable power at the plate and he certainly checks that box. There’s some leverage and loft in his swing that comes naturally, pointing toward usable power in his pro career.
White’s strength and raw power was put on display last summer. He showcased some of the best exit velos on the circuit. At Area Code Games, White hit a ball 113.5 mph off Bloomington, Indiana righty Luke Hayden, another legitimate draft arm. The ball traveled 421-feet to dead centerfield for a no-doubt homer.
Lonnie White just obliterated this pitch from Luke Hayden. White's swing is strong and he sent this ball 421 feet to center field. pic.twitter.com/bmgZcnYA60— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) August 9, 2020
I cannot stress how not normal it is to watch a high school ballplayer hit a baseball 421 feet, let alone generate an exit velocity of that magnitude. He was 17 years old when he did this.
White clearly represents plus raw power and given the characteristics of the swing, he should have no problem getting to most of it in-game so long as the hit tool allows for it.
White is a plus runner right now, but given his level of physical maturity, one would imagine he may regress into an above average runner by the time he reaches his mid-20s. If White debuts at age 22, there’s certainly reason to believe he’ll be a plus runner at that stage, but I’d expect to see it wane a bit shortly thereafter.
Still, with his size and athleticism, an above average runner who can produce 10-15 stolen bases in his peak to supplement his power output could be the building blocks to a 5-win player. Obviously a lot needs to go right for him to reach that ceiling, but I think ascribing 5-tool potential is certainly fair here.
Given his three-sport background, White has developed some traits others in this class have not. His instincts on the field are very strong, and his routes to the ball are equally impressive. He’s got a legitimate shot at stick in centerfield, an obvious boost to his draft stock.
White projects above average in centerfield, but should he be forced to a corner, the skillset is plus. Again, these are all skills that will continue to refine as he gets more and more comfortable on the baseball field.
White has a quarterback background as well and it shows in his arm action in the outfield. He’s got a strong arm that may get stronger.
Elsewhere, his footwork on crow hops is particularly strong and his arm accuracy is very good. White’s throws have plenty of carry and do not tail up the line. His arm will be an asset anywhere on the field, and potentially one of the better throwing arms in centerfield in the league should he stick up the middle.
White reminds me a great deal of Avisail Garcia. For years now, Garcia has flown under the radar as a .265 hitter with a sound approach at the plate and above average or better power and speed. He plays a very good right field and represents glue in his lineup. Garcia is a sneaky good athlete. I think that’s what you’re looking at here.
White has all the ingredients necessary to be a five-tool player. There are skeptics who will look at the fully-developed body of an 18-year-old and wonder what his development path looks like, but I’m not one of those people. White has plenty of room to grow and mature in his approach at the plate and his understanding of the game once fully enveloped. He may be an expensive sign, but I do think the risk is worth the reward on this one. White may not be in play at pick no. 12 unless he is an under-slot, but if Seattle wants to splurge on an exciting high school athlete and overpay a bit at pick no. 47, I’m fully onboard the Lonnie White Jr. train.