When the Mariners drafted Evan White with the 17th overall selection in the 2017 Draft, their hope was that the Kentucky product would move quickly, thanks to his advanced approach and ability to barrel up the baseball at the plate, not to mention his excellent defense at first base.
And even though he had just 400 plate appearances above A ball heading into the 2020 season, the organization felt so sure he would handle the transition to the big leagues, and soon, that they gave him a six-year, $24 million contract. With the deal came the expectation that he’d take over at first base in Seattle, if not on Opening Day, then soon thereafter. White, the Mariners' No. 4 prospect and No. 56 overall, hit .333 in Cactus League action before the shut down and continued to swing the bat well in Summer Camp, securing a spot in the Opening Day lineup.
Here's a breakdown of White on a tool-by-tool basis, with his grade on the 20-to-80 scouting scale in parentheses (20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average):
Hit (55): Ever since his college days, White has shown an innate feel for hitting. He gets on base and hits the ball hard to all fields. He’s not afraid to work counts and has a good two-strike approach. He doesn’t sell out for power and has the chance to be a plus hitter, one who hits over .300 annually, over the course of his career. He didn’t wait long to record his first Major League hit, connecting for a single on Opening Day in his MLB debut.
Power (50): This has been a part of his game that some questioned when he entered pro ball. And while he’s still hit-over-power, more apt to drive the ball to the gaps, he has started to show the ability to reach the seats more often. It’s something that really started happening in August 2018, the end of his first full season of pro ball. White hit five homers that month, nearly doubling his total for the year, with an August slugging percentage of .703. He hit 18 homers in 92 Double-A games in 2019. He’s never going to be a moon-shot kind of long ball hitter, but seeing him get to 20 line-drive home runs annually isn’t out of the question.
Run (60): White doesn’t get enough credit for his speed, largely because he plays an infield corner and partially because he’s never been a big basestealer. But he’s an outstanding baserunner, one who will take the extra base regularly. He has enough speed that he could move out and play center field if needed, and his agility allows him to have more range than most first basemen.
Arm (55): He has more than enough arm for the position and uses that to his advantage. Because of his plus range, he gets to balls that most at his position don’t, particularly on bunts, then shows no fear in using his above-average arm to throw out lead runners on a regular basis.
Field (70): There are scouts who feel the 70 grade underrates just how good White is at first base. He has gotten votes in polling done about the best defensive prospect in baseball, again rare for the position. The above-mentioned range, the instincts, the soft hands and impressive footwork will all help him save a ton of runs over the course of a season. It’s not a question of if White will win a Gold Glove some day, it’s how many he’ll acquire over the course of his career.