CARY, N.C. -- The only thing that was really a challenge for Thomas White in his first PDP League outing Friday was the heat.
The 6-foot-5 left-hander hails from Rowley, Mass., so he wasn’t exactly acclimated to the temperatures and humidity that are common at summer events at USA Baseball’s National Training Complex, going to his resin bag early and often.
“Coming out from from Mass., I think definitely it's a bit of an adjustment to how humid it is, hot, obviously,” White said. “So I definitely got a little tired. I have really sweaty hands. I brought my own resin bag. In Mass., you don't get too many days like that.”
While White might have been uncomfortable, it didn’t keep him from being dominant. The Vanderbilt recruit went three very strong innings, allowing just one unearned run on one hit and two walks while striking out seven. He struck out the first four hitters he faced and a hitter didn’t put a ball in play until Ryder Helfrick flied out to end the second inning. He added one more strikeout in the third, though he did struggle with his command as his outing wore on and perhaps the fatigue set in.
"I think my timing with my arm was a little bit off towards the later innings,” White said. “Especially out of the stretch, I wasn't exactly matched up to how my lower half was working. But other than that, I was really happy with it, honestly. They only had one hit, I think, so they really didn't touch anything when I put it there.”
White was up to 96 mph with his fastball and averaged 92.8 mph, according to Trackman. He missed bats with it and even more with his upper-70s slider, which averaged over 2,600 rpm. He also mixed in a few outstanding low-80s changeups to give scouts a look at his full repertoire. And even if there is some projection that’s needed on his overall command, there was no doubt his free and easy delivery will work in the future.
White’s start here was about as highly anticipated as any pitcher’s in recent memory, at least in terms of summer showcase work. that's because the southpaw has not pitched much on larger stages, opting not to attend many underclass events. Scouts on hand were overheard calling White a “unicorn,” someone whose stuff and potential had reached almost mythical proportions, but had rarely been seen. He certainly did not disappoint and scouts will want to see more of him moving forward. White, for his part, hopes to continue on the path of being considered for USA Baseball's 18U National Team and will attend large events like Perfect Game National, but reserves the right to be picky about where he will throw.
“Hopefully I get invited back,” White said about the Team USA process that will whittle things down to a 40-man trials roster after this event. “Not too many big things [after that]. You don't need to be everywhere. If scouts want to see you, my opinion is they will come see you. So I just do my thing, I go to the big ones, or the ones that I want to do, the ones I feel like I'll have a good time at. I don't want to put too much stress on my arm, either. A healthy arm is what gets you where you want to be.”
So does pitching as well as he did in front of a crowd like that. As confident as White is in his stuff, he hasn’t matched up against competition like this very often. Shutting down some of the best high school hitters in the country on a stage like this certainly made him feel sure he belongs.
“It's definitely a good ego boost in a way,” White said. “Even though I couldn't find the zone as [much] as I would have wanted, it shows that I have the best stuff here, in my opinion. You always have to have confidence in yourself. It lets me know, ‘Hey, you're good enough to be here.’
“That's the most scouts I've ever had at a game. So you do look up there and see who's in the stands, but at the same time, you have to focus on what you're doing. Hopefully they like what they saw.”
‘Another’ lefty stands out
White wasn’t the only southpaw who impressed scouts on Thursday. In the early game, Cam Johnson (Upper Marlboro, Md.) threw two shutout innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out three. He filled up the strike zone, throwing 21 of his 29 pitches for strikes while firing his fastball consistently in the 94-96 mph range (He averaged 95.1 mph according to Trackman.).
Johnson, who will be heading to IMG Academy in Florida for his senior season of high school ball, relied heavily on the fastball (83 percent usage), throwing it with good sink. But he did show the ability to miss bats with his upper-70s slider, throwing all five of them for strikes. The best one was a true sweeper the LSU recruit used against left-handed hitter, and fellow Maryland native, Tommy Roldan, who waved and missed at it for Johnson’s second strikeout.
The only hitter who did any damage against White was Houston native Kendall George. The outfielder went 3-for-3, including a third-inning single that brought in that unearned run and was tracked at 98.5 mph off the bat.
In the early game, catcher Campbell Smithwick went 2-for-3 and drove in all three runs for Light Blue. The Conway, S.C., native had a pair of doubles, driving in a run in the second and two more in the sixth. That second hit was the hardest hit ball of the day, coming off the left-handed hitting backstop’s bat at 102 mph.