Evan White Is A Rare Type Of Prospect
PEORIA, Ariz.—First baseman Evan White is part of a rather unusual group of position players in professional baseball that share an uncommon trait—they bat righthanded but throw lefthanded. Even with baseball’s rich vernacular history, there’s really no clever name describing this type of player. They are normally just called “backwards guys.”
White has an explanation for how he, a natural lefthander, started hitting from the opposite side during his formative baseball years, as well as the reason for sticking with it.
It started with White's grandfather, who cut down a regular-sized golf club for White’s older cousin to use. Eventually, it got passed down to White and, of course, it was a righthanded club. White got used to swinging the golf club from the right side and eventually switched his baseball swing to match.
Even when his father tried to get him to become a switch-hitter, White resisted.
“I liked being unique,” White said. “Hit from the right side and throw from the left side. … So far, it’s worked out pretty well, and I like doing it. I like being unique.”
Regardless of which batter's box he steps into, or what glove he wears on the field, White has become one of the Mariners' top prospects, just over a year after being drafted out of the University of Kentucky with the 17th overall pick.
As a prospect, White is best known for plus-plus defense at first base, with footwork so graceful around the bag that at times his movements have been called ballet-like. His potential at the plate has been overshadowed by the glove work in the first two years of his professional career, but that perception may be changing.
More of an all-fields hitter with less over-the-fence power than normally desired from a first baseman, White made some swing changes midway through his first full season in 2018, which was mostly spent with high Class A Modesto.
“The last month of the season I lowered my hands and started (with) a little bit of a different stance,” White said. “I was excited to see the results. ... The big goal in that was to get my hands on plane, being able to stay through the zone a little longer and stay through the ball. … If you’re on the plane longer you’ve got a better chance of elevating balls more.”
The results of the swing change were impressive, as White posted an eye-popping .363/.454/.703 slash line while also hitting five of his season total 11 home runs in August.
The increased power and loft from his swing hasn’t fundamentally changed White’s style of hitting, and he believes that he’ll continue to hit to all fields.
“Just being able to be on plane longer allows me to elevate the inside pitch better,” said White, who is playing for the Peoria Javelinas during this year's Arizona Fall League.
“I was able to swing at more pitches that were inside, and instead of hitting hard ground balls I was able to elevate a little bit and get extra-base hits. But I definitely want to do something that I’ve done my whole career—that’s to use all fields and drive the ball the opposite way.”
“We’re really happy with the way he finished the year,” said Javelinas manager Daren Brown, who is also the Mariners' Double-A skipper during the regular season.
“His last couple of months were probably his best two months of the year. … It’s a young kid learning to hit, learning a little bit about himself. He’s headed in the right direction.”
Baseball America Spring Training Prospect Report -- March 3, 2020
Monday was one of those days where the Mariners rebuild gave a glimpse of a potentially promising future.
Just because he’s worked so hard on his swing and approach at the plate doesn’t mean that White is not also putting in just as much time in improving his already stellar defense, however. He maintains a regular, daily routine during batting practice to work on his footwork, including a drill in which he works on getting to the opposite side of the base while keeping his foot in contact with the bag.
“During BP he has a routine that he does,” Brown said, “whether it’s backhands, forehands, a few throws to second base and everything that he feels he needs to get done to be ready to play.
"That’s a big part of maturity of a player—understanding what they have to do, understanding themselves and what they need to do to get ready to play every day.”
The attention to detail and dedication to being prepared is something that was instilled in White as he was growing up.
“I was fortunate to be born to such a great family and people that care about me,” White said. “And (they) instilled in me good values.”
Not to mention a grandfather who crafted that modified, righthanded golf club, inadvertently causing White to become one of the game's unusual “backwards guys."