Rangers' White stays stingy in AFL

November 9th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- In the shadow of historic Old Town Scottsdale, fans in attendance at Scottsdale Stadium on Tuesday afternoon were treated to an old-school pitchers’ duel.

Dominating the premier landing spot for top prospects after tossing just 35 1/3 professional innings just isn’t supposed to happen. But after another scoreless start, Surprise’s Owen White has been doing just that during his stint in the Fall League.

White struck out four batters across four frames in the Saguaros’ 2-1 defeat to the Scorpions, allowing just one hit and two walks. During his 14 appearances in 2021 (including nine regular-season outings), the Rangers’ No. 29 prospect hasn't allowed more than two runs in all but one start.

The Saguaros concluded the game tied for the AFL’s best record due in large part to White’s stellar campaign. In five starts, the righty has posted a 1.16 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP, a .143 opponents’ average and 23 strikeouts.

While the K total has been impressive, who he struck out against Scottsdale added some luster. At the ballpark the San Francisco Giants call home during Spring Training, White whiffed Marco Luciano (SF 1) and Hunter Bishop (SF 6). Fifth-ranked Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs, who has five home runs during the AFL, also went down swinging in the third.

Integral to the success of Texas’ second-round pick in the 2018 Draft has been the addition of a slight toe tap at the start of his motion, which enables the right-hander to gain optimal momentum as he moves toward the plate.

“Shorten up my delivery and make me get more on my back leg,” White said of the idea behind the tap. “It’s just something that I picked up last offseason to shorten up my stance. I kind of slowed my momentum down too much because I had to step back further, so the little tap is just speeding me up a little bit more.”

The abbreviated starts pitchers receive during the AFL allows many to let their stuff fly at a higher frequency. Not needing to go deep has helped White excel, even when facing top-notch competition.

“You can put more effort into it, not trying to go as long,” he said. “You try to pound the zone and throw it with conviction a lot. Right now, it’s just [about] grinding it out, it’s late in the season.”

The right-hander was in line for his fifth consecutive victory before Boston prospect Kole Cottam hit a two-run walk-off homer for the Scorpions in the ninth. Still, White has claimed four wins in five starts -- just one other pitcher in the AFL has reached the three-win plateau.

“I just do my job,” White said. “I go out there and do everything for the team, and if we pull it off, we pull it off. If we don’t, I just know that I’ve given it all I had to put us in that position.”

Opposite White was Scottsdale starter Caleb Sampen, who went 12-up, 12-down against a high-octane Surprise lineup. A righty in the Rays’ system limited to just 20 2/3 innings during the regular season due to injury, the 24-year-old matched his competition step for step, deftly maneuvering his way through four perfect frames.

Not to be lost in the starters’ star-studded shuffle, Surprise’s Cole Henry also spun four scoreless frames in relief of White. The Nats’ No. 7 prospect scattered three hits and one walk while whiffing seven to reclaim the AFL strikeout lead with 30.