A's White carries breakout season into Fall League

October 18th, 2018

For Eli White, one year made all the difference.
In his first taste of the Double-A level this season, the A's No. 18 prospect finished second in the Texas League in average (.306) and on-base percentage (.388) and fourth in OPS (.838) while playing in 130 games for Midland. He also led the circuit with 154 hits and 81 runs scored, while his nine home runs, .450 slugging, 47 extra-base hits and 18 steals all marked career highs.
Arizona Fall League overviews for all 30 teams
The breakout performance followed a first full season in which White had produced solid if unspectacular results, slashing .270/.342/.395 with four homers and 42 extra-base hits over 115 games for Class A Advanced Stockton in the hitter-friendly California League.
"I worked really hard in the offseason, tweaked some things with my swing here and there, but I think the big thing was having that full season under my belt and having some confidence going into the season," said White, a Clemson University product whom the A's selected in the 11th round of the 2016 Draft.
Specifically, White's offseason adjustments centered on the re-tooling of his right-handed swing, with the goal of developing a more impactful stroke through better utilization of his physically strong, 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame.
"I'd always been a guy, coming up through college, that stayed inside the ball and shot the ball to right field -- didn't really get the [bat] head out," said White. "So a big thing I tried to do was stay through the ball and in advantage counts, try to do some damage…catch the ball out front and drive it gap-to-gap."
In addition to the mechanical tweaks, White also showed a more advanced approach at Midland as he reduced his strikeout rate by 4 percent (from 24.1 to 20.1 percent) compared to the previous year while also improving his walk rate by 2.5 percent (8.2 to 10.7).
"I made some adjustments to my mental game and how I prepare every day, and it paid off," said the 24-year-old, whose 62 walks were good for a share of third place in the Texas League.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, White, a natural shortstop, added to his defensive versatility by gaining experience at both second (66 games) and third base (19) on top of his usual work at shortstop (42). He also logged three games in center field.
Now playing for the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League, White has split his time between shortstop and designated hitter in the early going, though he's expected to move around the diamond more as the season unfolds.
Altogether, it points to a possible utility or super utility role at the highest level for the South Carolina native.
"I enjoy jumping around -- it keeps things different and fresh -- but I've always played shortstop my whole life, so that's home to me," said White.
"It's something I'm trying to develop in my game," he continued, "and being able to play different positions is only going to help me moving forward."
A's hitters in the Fall League
Luis Barrera, OF -- Barrera was signed by the A's back in 2012 out of the Dominican Republic, but it wasn't until this year that the now 22-year-old outfielder truly put it all together while reaching Double-A for the first time in his career. In 124 games across two levels, Barrera batted .297/.361/.426 with 40 extra-base hits and 23 steals. He's a left-handed hitter who makes a lot of contact and impacts the game on both sides of the ball with his speed.
Skye Bolt, OF -- The A's No. 30 prospect flirted with a potential 20-homer, 20-steal campaign in 2018 before finishing with 19 of each. He also set career highs in all three triple-slash categories, hitting .260/.347/.474 over 124 games in Double-A while spending most of the year in center field. The 24-year-old was the A's fourth-round pick in the 2015 Draft.
A's pitchers in the Fall League
Jake Bray, RHP -- Acquired from the Orioles as the PTBNL in the Nov. 2017 deal that sent to Baltimore, Bray struggled this year in his first audition as a starter before suffering a midseason injury and ultimately returning to the bullpen. The 25-year-old righty pitched well in the latter role, posting a 3.38 ERA with 11 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings at Stockton.
Calvin Coker, RHP -- Chosen for the Fall League as a replacement for the injured , Coker was the A's 15th-round pick in this year's Draft and finished his pro debut in Triple-A. Altogether, the 6-foot-3 right-hander compiled a 3.97 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 2/3 innings across three levels.
Angel Duno, RHP -- The 24-year-old righty blossomed in his first season as a full-time reliever, logging 15 saves to go along with a 2.62 ERA and 66 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings (48 appearances) in the California League. In his previous two seasons, Duno tossed a combined 261 frames as a starter between Class A Beloit and Stockton.
Sam Sheehan, RHP -- The A's 31st-round pick in 2016, Sheehan racked up 78 strikeouts over 50 innings (14.0 K/9) out of Stockton's bullpen and held California League hitters to a paltry .199 average. But after issuing 32 walks (5.8 BB/9) and hitting six batters, Sheehan will need to make gains as a strike-thrower to be successful at higher levels.