SEATTLE -- With snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens outside his home in Columbus, Ohio, Mariners first-base prospect Evan White isn't having a tough time imagining the warmth of sunshine and sounds of baseball that will greet him when he reports to his first professional Spring Training
SEATTLE -- With snow on the ground and temperatures in the teens outside his home in Columbus, Ohio, Mariners first-base prospect Evan White isn't having a tough time imagining the warmth of sunshine and sounds of baseball that will greet him when he reports to his first professional Spring Training next month in Peoria, Ariz.
"Oh my gosh," the 2017 first-round Draft pick said by phone this week after working out at an indoor facility in nearby Ohio Dominican University. "I'm itching and ready to go."
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The Mariners are equally ready to see White when their Minor League camp opens in February. The 21-year-old, the No. 2 Seattle prospect according to MLB Pipeline, appeared in just 14 games for Class A Short Season Everett before a strained quadriceps muscle sidelined him last August, but he's already regarded as one of the top defensive prospects in baseball.
MLB Pipeline ranked White fifth in its Top 10 first-base prospect ratings that were released Friday, and last week selected him as a starter on its All-Defensive Prospect team.
"All that preseason stuff is pretty cool. I appreciate it," White said of the defensive honor. "But at the end of the day, you've got to go out and do it. I have to continue to work and get better."
White's glove work certainly isn't an issue. The Mariners knew they were getting an outstanding defender when they selected him with the 17th overall pick last year out of Kentucky. The right-handed-hitting, left-handed-throwing youngster is one of the more athletic first basemen to come out of the collegiate ranks in recent years.
The Mariners feel the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder has the speed and athleticism to play the outfield, but they like his potential at first base, where he's drawn early comparisons to John Olerud and Brandon Belt in terms of being a lanky youngster who sprays line drives and handles himself easily at the position.
It's a spot he's played almost exclusively since splitting time at shortstop and first base, with an occasional game in the outfield during his high school and travel ball days in Gahanna, Ohio.
"Growing up, I thought I'd be the first left-handed-hitting shortstop in the big leagues, so I always liked the infield," White said. "I tried to play first base like shortstop and just be athletic. I like taking grounders, and if you enjoy it, it makes the work easier."
But the youngster's work in his first shot at pro ball was cut short by a quad muscle that White said was a little tender at the end of his college season, then started barking a little more while he ran at the Mariners' minicamp for drafted players.
When the issue cropped up again following a couple of weeks of games with Everett, the club chose to sit White out for the rest of the year and let the leg fully heal. He took part in a six-week strength and conditioning program in Peoria in October and November, and says he's 100 percent full go now.
"It was obviously a very frustrating start," White said. "But it was probably for the good in the end to figure out how to fix it and move forward."
Among the frustrations was that after a slow initial start at the plate, White had just begun to heat up and went 9-for-19 with two homers, eight RBIs and a stolen base in his five games before being shut down.
"I definitely settled down and started seeing the ball better and doing what I do at the plate, which is stay calm," he said. "I was getting my rhythm and timing back, so it was frustrating from that standpoint as well. I was seeing the ball well and then I got hurt."
But now he'll start with a fresh slate and fresh legs, likely opening the year at one of Seattle's Class A clubs and looking to establish himself in the pro ranks and begin his journey up the ladder.
"One of my main goals is to keep my body right, stay healthy and play the entire season," he said. "Obviously it's a long season and I haven't done that before. So it's important to me to get a full season in and just do whatever I can to help the organization."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.