Mariners First-Rounder Evan White on Being Atypical

Evan White doesn’t fit a traditional mold. As a matter of fact, the 22-year-old University of Kentucky product was, in the opinion of Eric Longenhagen, “perhaps the 2017 draft’s most unique player.” As Longenhagen explained when putting together our Mariners prospect list, White not only bats right and throws left, he’s a first baseman whose athleticism and offensive skill set are more akin to that of a center fielder.

Last June’s 17th overall pick doesn’t project to hit for much power, but the Mariners were certainly enamored of what he accomplished as a collegian. In his three seasons as a Wildcat, White slashed .356/.414/.527 while playing exemplary defense. In the opinion of many scouts, he possesses Gold Glove potential — assuming he remains at his current position.

A native of Columbus, Ohio who grew up rooting for the Cincinnati Reds — Joey Votto remains a favorite — White is currently slashing .284/.356/.407, with three home runs, for the Modesto Nuts in the High-A California League. He discussed his game, including the ways it differs from the norm, in mid-May.

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White on throwing left and batting right: “I have an older cousin, and when I was a little kid, my grandpa cut down a golf club for him. It was a right-handed golf club and I started picking it up and swinging it. Ever since then — from around maybe four or five years old — I’ve swung right-handed. I’ve always thrown left-handed.

“My dad kind of messed around with me being a switch-hitter when I was growing up. He tried to get me to do it, but I never liked it. To be honest, I kind of like the thought of being unique. You don’t see many guys throwing left and hitting right. It’s something that’s always appealed to me.”

On having a dominant bottom hand at the plate: “I definitely have to concentrate more on my top hand. I have to… like, sometimes when I’m going through struggles, I feel myself pulling off. That could be be due to the fact that my left hand is my dominant hand. But it’s just like anything else. Even if I hit left-handed, I’d need to be conscious about certain things. That’s just what it happens to be for my swing.

“I don’t know for certain [if having a dominant bottom hand is conducive to handling pitches down]. It might help. My big thing is staying in my legs, so I don’t think too much about that lower pitch [besides] just going down and getting it with my legs. I haven’t given it much thought, but it could very well be a possibility. Sorry I don’t have a great answer for that.”

On the best pitch location for his bat path: “I’d say low-middle. Not too high. But it depends. If a guy is throwing 95, I’m not going to be as successful on the high pitch. If a guy is throwing 88-90, I can get on top of that pitch and drive it. So I think it really depends on the guy you’re facing, but if I had to pick one, I’d say more the lower part of the zone.”

On what he’s been working on with his hitting coaches: “Instead of instructs, we had high-performance camp — basically a strength-and-conditioning camp — so we didn’t do a ton of baseball. Since spring training, we’ve mostly just kind of bounced ideas off each other. Right now the biggest thing is working on my posture, on staying up, staying tall with my upper body, when I’m taking balls and changing eye levels. We haven’t talked too much about specific mechanics, I guess. Just that posture piece.”

On pre-draft conversations and questions about his power: “My agent really did the whole communication part. He let me know what teams were thinking and where I could possibly go, but I never talked with guys about if I had enough power for them, or anything like that. My agent handled all of that.

“I don’t think about home runs. If I tried to hit them, I’d probably [bat] around .100. I just try to hunt my pitch and swing through the ball.”

On his hitting approach: “If you’re swinging at good pitches, the results are going to come. Obviously, they’re not always going to fall. I’ve found that out — I’ve hit a lot of balls on the nose at people — but you can only control what you can control. The way I view it is that if I stick with my plan and swing at good pitches, I’m happy. I’m focusing on that more than the result.

“In college, I was very aggressive my first [two] years. If the pitcher threw a strike, I was going to swing at it regardless of whether it was a pitcher’s pitch or a good hitter’s pitch. That’s something I’ve gotten better at. I made a big jump in my junior year by being more selective and hunting my pitch early in counts. I feel that’s where your power numbers increase.

“The way we view it here in the [Mariners] organization is that there are two counts: less than two strikes and two strikes. Know your zone. Tip your cap if the pitcher makes a good pitch, and then when he gets to two strikes, you have to battle up.

Am I [becoming more like Joey Votto in his approach]? You can say that if you want, but I’m not going to say it. I’m just out there trying to get better.”

On Joey Votto as an influence: “You can see the adjustments he makes at the plate and how, with two strikes, he’s just battling pitchers… It’s impressive. And he’s not only a great hitter, he’s a great defender. He’s an all-around player and that’s what I want to be. He’s definitely a guy I look up to when it comes to anything about the game.”

On defense and coming from an athletic family: “Growing up, I’d work on [defense] with my dad and my brother — with everyone in the family. My mom. Everybody. I took pride in being an all-around player, so we’d go out back and work on my footwork around the bag, on picking balls around the bag… I enjoyed it. It’s easy to put the work in when you’re enjoying it.

“I come from a very athletic family. My mom played basketball in college — she’s on the Wall of Fame at Mount Vernon Nazarene, which is an NAIA school about 15 minutes north of Columbus — and she played softball, as well. My dad played three sports in college. We all played multiple sports.”

On being a first baseman with the athleticism to play in the outfield: “AJ Reed was [at the University of Kentucky] the year before I got there, and Thomas Bernal played first base when [Reed] was pitching. Then the third baseman graduated and Bernal moved over there, which put me in a good spot to compete for first base.

“I’d actually played nothing but first base for my high-school team. It was kind of the same deal: the senior graduated and I was in a spot to compete for the starting job. In summer ball, I pretty much played 50/50 center and first. My sophomore year of college, I played seven innings in center on my birthday. Coach said, ‘Happy birthday, you’re in center.’ That’s about it for the outfield, outside of playing a few games in left and right for Team USA.

“I don’t give much thought about where I am on the defensive spectrum. I just want to help my team wherever they need me to play and save as many runs as I can with my glove. Like I said, I want to be a good all-around player.”

We hoped you liked reading Mariners First-Rounder Evan White on Being Atypical by David Laurila!

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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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