The Mariners have themselves a franchise first baseman. Even with his small sample size, it’s clear that White will hit, and it is undeniable that he will win Gold Gloves.
Evan White is a unicorn. Or, maybe even an alien. All I know is he is not a normal baseball player. Where do I even begin? Let’s start at the fact that he hits from the right side, yet throws from the left side, a trait that is very rare for any baseball player and especially first basemen. Also, how about the fact that he was on the 2020 opening day roster afteronly playing 4 games in AAA. Those games were also all in 2018 as he spent all of 2019 in AA. So yeah all of that is pretty rare, but that is not all. He also signed a 6 year, $24,000,000 contract this offseason without ever playing in the majors. As you could guess, a contract like that is insanely rare.
Not only is White a unicorn, but in his week of action in the bigs, he’s already showed sparks of becoming a star as well. The brightest sparks in his six-game sample size have come on the defensive side of the ball. This is expected, as White, the 55th ranked prospect on the MLB.com top 100 prospects list, has a fielding rating of 70 (20-80 scale). His prospect summary calls him “by far the best defensive first base prospect in the game” while many believe he is the best overall defensive prospect. It also mentions how he will immediately be a gold glove contender when he gets to the bigs. It’s safe to say that that is true.
Sadly the stats do not back up his performance on the field. His defensive WAR is already -0.1, but dWAR has never really been a great evaluator of first baseman defense. Take for example the 2018 and 2019 1B AL Gold Glove winner Matt Olsen’s dWAR’s of 0.6 and 1.3 from his award-winning seasons. Good defensive stats, but not great compared to Gold Glover’s at other positions. On top of that, there’s 4 times AL 1B Gold Glover; Eric Hosmer‘s dWAR for his career of -8.4, and he has never had a season with a positive dWAR.
In Evan White’s case, he also might be seeing a negative dWAR because he has an error already this season on a pickoff attempt that saw the runner advance to second. There won’t be many more errors as in 1,798 minor league innings, he had only 9 errors. Moral of the story, don’t get discouraged by White’s dWAR, just watch his jaw-dropping defense like most Hall of Fame voters who hate stats.
How about Evan White the hitter?
White is sadly not as skilled a hitter as he is a first baseman, but he has shown sparks of what he could look like. Compared to all MLB players balls hit into play this season, White has a 91st percentile exit velocity, 95th percentile hard-hit %, and a 71st percentile xSLG (expected slugging %). Not surprisingly, he is in the 8th percentile for strikeout % with 10 in 27 plate appearances.
On top of that his basic stats have not been impressive so far as he is hitting .167 with a .292 SLG and a .551 OPS. Those will improve this year, and overtime as he gets used to hitting against MLB pitchers and not AA pitchers, the strikeouts will go down. But for now, let’s watch his best at-bat so far this season that shows the kind of hitter he can be.
The most exciting aspect of Evan White for Mariner’s fans is the fact that he is under team control for 9 years, with his 6-year contract including 3 team options of $10 million, $11 million, and $12.5 million in 2026-2028. So, we’ll get to see White flash the leather for many more years to come.
For this season, I expect White to finish with an OPS in the .680-.730 range, but as his K numbers improve over multiple seasons I see him turning into a decent hitter with an OPS around .800 most years.
To go along with his insane defense and lack of errors, White should be a 3.0-5.0 WAR player in a just few seasons, winning multiple Gold Gloves and making one or a few All-Star Games before his contract ends. He isn’t the kind of player that makes the Hall of Fame, but Mariners fans will remember him as a key piece of their teams that brought Seattle back to the playoffs.