Ben Zobrist played three positions for the 2015 Athletics and has started games at seven in his career. The A’s valued his versatility so much that they have tried to clone him, again and again.
First they turned Chad Pinder from a shortstop into an six-position player who has been a key to the team’s resurgence. Now they are trying to do the same with Eli White, the former Clemson shortstop and 11th-round pick in 2016 who now plays all over the diamond.
“He’s got the ability to start at shortstop, but because of the way we’re stacked, he’s been forced to move around,” coordinator of minor league Instruction Ed Sprague said.
“He fits that Chad Pinder role, where he has ability at several positions. He has a knack for it. He’s played well at second and third base, and he’s done well when we’ve moved him to the outfield. He’s able to run the ball down.”
White’s above-average speed has been an asset when he moves to center field, where he has become better than adequate despite being new to the position. The A’s grade his speed as plus, and Sprague said that White is learning how to use it in other ways.
“He’s explosive. I think he’s going to be a good basestealer,” Sprague said. “He’s just learning the craft, but his first-step explosiveness is really good.”
White had a breakthrough at Double-A Midland this year, hitting .306/.388/.450 with nine home runs, 30 doubles and 18 stolen bases. The righthanded hitter improved because he learned to pull the ball more often after being an opposite-field, up-the-middle hitter when he joined the organization.
Hitting line to line has made the 24-year-old White a constant threat who is hard to defend, and the A’s believe he can develop average power to go with his on-base skills and speed.
White’s arm may be the biggest uncertainty. He had bone chips removed from his elbow after the 2017 season, and he began cutting loose in 2018 as the year progressed. Sprague believes White will develop the arm strength to make him playable all over the diamond as he continues to progress.
His best asset may be his mental game. “He’s about as good of a kid as you want,” Sprague said. “He’s a gentleman, a great teammate and plays the game hard. He’s a manager’s dream. He just doesn’t do anything wrong.”
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