Cleveland’s Alex White made a pretty successful big league debut (6 IP 6 H 2 ER 4 BB 4 K – two of the walks were intentional) on Saturday against the Detroit Tigers. Per Fangraphs, he threw around 75% fastballs (both two-seamers and four-seamers), 6% splitters, and 18% sliders with the two fastballs the most successful of his four distinct offerings. In light of his solid debut, I thought a quick retrospective on White was in order. It can be a lot of fun to check in on draft prospects as they evolve into minor leaguers and eventually grow into big leaguers. It was a good idea…in theory. I say that because Alex White’s path the big leagues is a unique one. For White there hasn’t been a whole lot of evolving and growing, at least not on the surface. I don’t mean to downplay all of the work he has put in over the past few years, not do I want to make light of the personal growth and subsequent effect that has had on his professional prospects. I just think it is funny that not much has changed about White over the years from a scouting standpoint. This can be construed as either a positive (stuff has remained above-average across the board, plus he’s had no velocity loss) or a negative (no meaningful improvement in his stuff, with the exception of a slight improvement with his split), depending on how you world view. I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, so I think it is pretty cool that White has stayed true to himself. Sinkers, sliders, splitter. They helped get him drafted out of high school, they helped get him drafted in the first round out of college, and now they’ve helped him reach the big leagues after less than 200 innings pitched in the minors.
Big Board Standing
White started the 2009 draft cycle as the second overall ranked player on my board. His stock held more or less steady throughout the year, dropping only four spots to sixth overall. By June, White was behind only Stephen Strasburg, Dustin Ackley, Tyler Matzek, Mike Leake, and Tanner Scheppers on the board.
Mock Draft Prognostication
White wound up going fifteenth overall to Cleveland despite the fact that in each of three 2009 mock drafts he was a top ten pick. I started with him going ninth overall to Detroit, then moved him up to fourth (Pittsburgh), and then finally settled on him winding up with Baltimore at the fifth spot. Three hacks at it, three empty swings.
Commentary (from 2/2009)
A big, strong righthanded pitcher, Alex White stands alone as the best starboard thrower non-Strasburg division in the upcoming draft. Originally a Dodgers draft pick out of high school (413th overall), White has, if nothing else, the Logan White Seal of Approval™. His rumored asking price was somewhere between $850,000 and $1.4 million back in 2006, a pretty good chunk of change to be sure, but it’s still safe to say he made a wise fiscal decision by passing up the pros. Think about all of the good that came from White’s decision to pass on the Dodgers offer. By opting to bet on his talent, he wound up with three partially paid years at one of the nation’s finest universities. At Carolina, White has been able to enjoy the beautiful surrounding area (hard to beat being college-aged and living in Chapel Hill), play at a gorgeous renovated ballpark, and experience all of the, ahem, perks of being a top student-athlete at a southern college campus. To do that all while learning from a top notch coaching staff that has helped him continue his development towards becoming a high first rounder cashing a paycheck that could triple his original salary demands as a high schooler. Alex White: living proof that in these turbulent economic times, the best financial decision we can make is to invest in ourselves. The Baseball Draft Report: come for the baseball, stay for the life lessons…and crazy run-on sentences.
White’s sinking 2-seam fastball regularly registers in the low 90s. White’s straight but heavy 4-seam fastball comes in faster, as he is able to pump it up into the mid-90s. He fits in with many of the other players on this list because he partners up that fastball with the occasionally slurvy slider that is a true weapon. The slider sits in the low 80s and works best when it bears in on the hands of lefthanded hitters. White also throws a good splitter that helps him get both swings and misses and plenty of ground balls. There isn’t a whole lot to find fault in with his actual stuff and he has top of the rotation potential assuming good health.
Commentary 2.0 (from 6/2009)
But I won’t knock the real Indians taking Alex White at 15. Sensational pick. White came into the year as the frontrunner to go number two overall to Seattle, so you know he’s naturally gifted. I buy the talk coming out of Carolina that suggested his struggles on the mound this year were due largely to nagging injuries. Get him healthy and watch him take off – White has the upside of a really good big league number two starting pitcher.