It doesn’t bother Evan White that he’s not necessarily a typical first baseman.
Of the tools he used to rack up honors for the Gahanna Lincoln High School baseball team, as well as during the last three years for the University of Kentucky, power hitting might be his weakest area.
That didn’t prevent him from being picked by the Seattle Mariners with the 17th selection of the MLB draft June 12. He also isn’t expecting it to be an issue in the future if he ends up staying at first base.
White is a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who hits right-handed but throws left-handed and could be a potential gold-glove winner if he stays at his current position.
He’s also open to moving to another position if the situation dictates it.
“I’m a guy that likes to (hit the ball into) the middle of the field, work gap to gap and stay within myself,” White told MLB Network a few minutes after being selected. “I’ve played a lot more first base in my life, but I’ve played all three spots in the outfield.”
Mariners scouting director Scott Hunter compared White to John Olerud, who played 17 seasons in MLB with a stint in Seattle from 2000-04 in which he made one all-star team. Olerud never hit more than 24 home runs in a season but ended his career with 2,239 hits and a .295 average.
The 21-year-old White, who hit .500 and was the state’s Division I Player of the Year as a senior in 2014 when he led Gahanna to its second consecutive state semifinal, could provide similar upside.
“He has a very compact, short swing,” Hunter said in a story on MLB.com. “The power is in there. He scores in the upper echelon in exit velocity in all of college baseball in terms of players who went higher in this draft. We believe a minor adjustment will tap into that power because (in terms of) the bat speed, the knowledge of the strike zone, a lot of those things are in place.”
In his first season at Kentucky in 2015, White hit .318 with two home runs and 28 RBI and earned all-Southeastern Conference freshman honors. He also was the first baseman on the all-SEC defensive team while starting 52 games.
White then started 54 games as a sophomore and hit .376 to post the 11th-best batting average in program history. He also had five home runs, 40 RBI and 85 hits, the eighth most in a season in program history.
White made just one error to again make the all-SEC defensive team. He also won the Rawlings Gold Glove and was second-team all-SEC.
Last summer, White played for the USA Baseball Collegiate National team.
He concluded his college career this spring by hitting .373 with 10 home runs, 41 RBI and 48 runs scored in 53 games, including 52 starts. He again was named second-team all-SEC and made the all-SEC defensive team for the third consecutive season.
White is expected to sign a $3.3 million bonus based on MLB’s slotting system.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling that I can’t put into words,” he said. “I’m truly blessed to be selected by the Mariners. Obviously nothing is set until you actually hear your name called. They’re a great organization with great leadership. I can’t wait to get started.”
Before becoming Kentucky’s fifth first-round draft pick, White finished fourth in program history with 233 career hits. His career average of .356 ranks fifth, and his 51 doubles are fourth.
White also was named second-team all-America by Baseball America this season despite missing 13 games with injuries.
Kentucky made the NCAA Division I Super Regional round for the first time and finished 43-23.
White is the first player in the 26-year tenure of Gahanna coach Mike Shade to be drafted in the first round.
“That’s tremendous,” Shade said. “He’s just a gifted athlete. I don’t know if I’ve coached anyone as athletic as Evan. He’s a tremendous competitor, but he’s also a tremendous athlete. He’s got some pop in his bat, but (the position he ends up playing) will all play out. He’s such a natural first baseman defensively.”
The last player from Gahanna to be drafted was Phil Klein, a 2007 graduate who was picked in the 30th round (924th overall) in 2011. He pitched in 40 MLB games from 2014-16.
Always a special moment.
During the break, watch as the commissioner makes it official—welcome to the Mariners, @Ewhite_19. #TrueToTheBlue pic.twitter.com/5Fwj21lLiB