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Mariners take college bat White in first round

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- New Mariners scouting director Scott Hunter was in Major League camp back in the late 1990s when a teammate named John Olerud was playing first base for the Mets. And that was the comparison Hunter tossed out when talking about Evan White, Seattle's first-round selection Monday in the MLB Draft.

Olerud, of course, had an outstanding MLB career and was a big part of the Mariners from 2000-04. White, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Kentucky, has much work to do before reaching that point. But he's eager to get to work and will fly to Seattle on Friday to take a physical and sign a contract before heading to a Mariners mini-camp in Peoria, Ariz.

SEATTLE -- New Mariners scouting director Scott Hunter was in Major League camp back in the late 1990s when a teammate named John Olerud was playing first base for the Mets. And that was the comparison Hunter tossed out when talking about Evan White, Seattle's first-round selection Monday in the MLB Draft.

Olerud, of course, had an outstanding MLB career and was a big part of the Mariners from 2000-04. White, a 21-year-old junior at the University of Kentucky, has much work to do before reaching that point. But he's eager to get to work and will fly to Seattle on Friday to take a physical and sign a contract before heading to a Mariners mini-camp in Peoria, Ariz.

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"It's been an incredible day," White said after being tabbed with the 17th-overall selection in the first round. "I can't put into words how much this means to me and my family and friends. It's a heck of a night, a lot is going on, and nothing has really settled in yet. I'll have to pinch myself to make sure I'm really living this."

Video: 2017 Draft: White on being selected 17th overall

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

White is something of a late-bloomer, having gone undrafted out of Gahanna Lincoln High in Ohio in 2014 and walking on at Kentucky after committing to Kent State and then changing his mind when the head coach moved to Georgia.

But he's put on 25 pounds since his prep days, now listed at 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, and quickly developed into an elite hitter and first baseman.

"Just maturing as a person and ballplayer played a big part of this," White said.

White, a USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award semifinalist, is a right-handed hitter and left-handed thrower who put up a .373/.453/.637 line with 10 home runs and 41 RBIs in 53 games this past season for Kentucky.

"Every year, you look at his numbers and he's improved," said Hunter. "This is a kid who is still untapped as far as a college player. There is still some projection in this body and athlete.

Video: 2017 Draft: Callis on No. 17 overall pick White

"He has a very compact, short swing. The power is in there. He scores in the upper echelon in exit velocity in all of college baseball in terms of players who went higher in this Draft. We believe a minor adjustment will tap into that power because the bat speed, the knowledge of the strike zone, a lot of those things are in place. Now it's just a matter of getting into his legs a little more and making a couple minor adjustments."

White is athletic enough to have played some outfield in his past, but Hunter says his defensive prowess at first base is a potential difference maker and he'll start his pro career there, likely at Short Season Class A Everett after meeting with the Mariners and taking batting practice at Safeco Field when the team returns home next week.

"Whatever the Mariners want me to do, I'm willing to take on that challenge," White said. "But I'm most comfortable at first base, mostly because that's what I've done more in my lifetime."

This is the Mariners' first Draft conducted by Hunter, who replaced Tom McNamara as the club's director of amateur scouting last September, and he was overjoyed that the youngster he wanted was still on the board when that first selection arrived.

"It's a good day for the Seattle Mariners," Hunter said. "One of the things we discussed was getting more athletic and putting some kids in the system that have the potential for Major League impact. But more importantly, this is a kid I think we all can root for. He's wired right."

The Draft continues on Tuesday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 9:30 a.m. PT, with exclusive coverage beginning at 10 a.m. PT.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB and listen to his podcast.

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