Name: Eli White
Height/Weight: 6’2’’, 175
How Acquired: Selected in the 11th round of the 2016 MLB draft.
After a strong showing in his pro debut season, Eli White made the jump from short-season straight to the High-A California League. It was a season of adjustments for White both in the field and at the plate, but he still managed to post solid numbers. Can White fill a valuable utility role in the big leagues?
An 11th-round pick out of Clemson in 2016, White made a strong impression in his pro debut season with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters. He hit .279 with a .348 OBP and 12 stolen bases while also playing well defensively at shortstop. White was named the Lake Monsters’ MVP at the end of the year.
In 2017, the A’s jumped White over Low-A, and he spent the entire season with the High-A Stockton Ports. Although he struggled mid-season while dealing with bone chips in his right elbow, White still managed to put together a solid overall campaign with the Ports. In 115 games, he hit .270/.342/.395 with 12 stolen bases.
The bone chips were just one challenge White had to overcome during the season. He also worked on mechanical adjustments at the plate that were designed to put him in a better position to drive the ball to the pull side of the field. White struggled in-season to make that change, but he had a strong finish to the season (he hit .322 with a 961 OPS in August) and made progress during fall Instructional League.
“He worked on not only the proper bat path to get to the inside pitch more efficiently but also the mentally of using that swing or allowing himself to use it,” A’s minor league hitting coordinator Jim Eppard said of White’s work this fall.
White also made a position change during the season. When Sheldon Neuse joined the Ports from the Nationals organization in July, White saw some time in centerfield to keep both Neuse and White in the line-up. White missed a week in early August with an injury that cut into his time in center, but he did appear in eight games in center. This fall, he worked extensively on improving his reads in the outfield.
“He’s probably been an infielder/shortstop his entire life, so the more time he can spend out there, the better,” Eppard said. “Even being out there in batting practice and tracking balls down is helpful. I think he got a lot of work done.”
White’s error totals at shortstop this year were high (25 in 92 games), but Ports’ manager Rick Magnante said that White had the tools to be a solid defensive middle infielder.
“I think just like with hitting, sometimes players go into fielding slumps,” Magnante said mid-season. “It’s really more apparent when you are in the center of the diamond and are in the middle of the action. I think he might have gone through what we might call a fielding slump, but I have no doubt that the tools are in place for him to stay in the middle of the field. I don’t know if he will ultimately move to second or stay at short or become a super-utility guy – I’m not clairvoyant – but I’m pleased with his overall play based on where he went in the draft and where he was last year as to where he is now.”
White is an excellent athlete with above-average speed and a long, lean frame that is reminiscent of former A’s shortstop Bobby Crosby. White hasn’t hit for power as a pro yet, but the A’s believe there is the capability for White to do damage with the bat as he matures. White has some swing-and-miss to his game (his K-rate was 25% in 2017), but he sees a lot of pitches and can draw a walk. He uses the whole field well, with his batted balls in 2017 almost evenly distributed to all fields.
Defensively, White has only played shortstop as a pro, but he should be able to handle second base and third base if given the opportunity. If he can also add the outfield, White will be in a good position to continue to move towards the big leagues because of his versatility. He should get an opportunity with Double-A Midland in 2019.
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