Thomas White Showing Why He's The Top Lefty In The 2023 MLB Draft
Through his first three starts of the year, Thomas White is showing why he's the No. 1 lefthander available for the 2023 draft.
A Vanderbilt commit at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., White is the No. 5 high school player in the country and No. 20 overall player on Baseball America's draft rankings. His first three starts of the season have been packed with scouts to evaluate the potential first-round pick.
Having been in attendance for his last two starts, here's what White has shown so far at the beginning of his spring season.
Making It Look Easy
White pitched against Worcester Academy in the Triple-A park of the Red Sox on April 8 in his second start of the season, throwing five scoreless innings with no hits, one walk, nine strikeouts and one hit batsman. He followed that start with a five-inning no-hitter, holding the opposition scoreless with one walk and nine strikeouts.
After an offseason regimen where he added another 10-15 pounds of good weight to his tall, lanky frame, White is now 6-foot-5, 220 pounds. The two things about White that jump out immediately are his size and how little effort there is to his delivery. It's an extremely easy operation, where it looks like he's playing catch, but the ball comes out of his hands in the low-to-mid 90s.
In his second start of the season, White's fastball mostly sat 92-94 mph, touching 95 once and otherwise ranging from 90-94 mph on a chilly day. That has typically been the velocity White has shown as a starter, touching a 95 or 96 once or twice early before setting in more in the 90-94 mph range.
His next start was the best I have ever seen White's fastball, a history that includes a ton of looks over the last four years. He didn't set a new velocity record, but he was sitting at the upper band of his velocity with more frequency and did it while maintaining the same easy delivery. He touched 96 mph seven times, sitting at 94-96 mph in the first inning, 92-96 mph in the first three innings and didn't throw a fastball under 92 the entire outing. Given how often White was throwing 96 mph in his third start of the year with so little effort, it would not be surprising to see him be able to reach back for upper-90s velocity either by the end of the spring or at some point in the near future. His fastball has late life with lively arm-side run up in the zone that helps the pitch play up even more.
White has shown a promising changeup since his early days of high school. Over the last couple of years, it has looked like his best long-term offspeed pitch, and that has continued to be the case this spring. In his second start, White threw 10 changeups, with hitters swinging at it five times and missing on four of them. That included one particularly nasty sequence where White went:
Changeup 84: Swinging strike
Changeup 85: Swinging strike
Fastball 95: Strikeout looking on the outer third
Baseball America’s No. 1 LHP in the 2023 class, Massachusetts LHP Thomas White, with a 3-pitch strikeout yesterday:— Ben Badler (@BenBadler) April 10, 2023
5 IP 0 H 0 R 1 BB 9 SO pic.twitter.com/p5Hlc7zUbx
His next outing, White didn't have his usual changeup in the bullpen or on the first handful that he threw in the game. Then to lead off the fourth inning, White went:
Changeup 83: Called strike
Changeup 85: Swinging strike
Changeup 85: Swinging strikeout
It was the second at-bat of the game for the hitter, who led off the game by pulling a first-pitch, 94 mph fastball for a fly out to left field for the rare ball in play that day. White took notice and neutralized him with three straight changeups to keep him off balance. White sells his changeup well by maintaining his arm speed, coming out of his hand at mostly 82-85 mph with good separation off his fastball and late fade.
White's most frequently used secondary pitch is his curveball, which ranges from 76-81 mph. It's been an effective pitch for him and is at its best when he's throwing it with more power toward the upper end of that velocity range. It tends to have three-quarter break rather than true curveball, top-to-bottom action, with his best ones showing more horizontal break and looking like a slider. His curveball could develop into a solid-average pitch, though with his arm slot and the way his breaking ball naturally bends laterally, it seems conducive for him to throw a slider that could have good sweep and power if he were to add that pitch to his mix.
When teams are zeroing in on a player as a potential first-round pick, everything gets put under the microscope. One of the main things scouts are watching with White this spring is his command. He has a smooth, balanced delivery, but he has had some outings in front of scouts where his control has escaped him, with a long arm action that's not always synced up and on time. In his second start, he walked the leadoff hitter, then fell behind 3-0 to the next batter before getting him to ground out to third base. It was control over command, but for the most part his control was otherwise solid the rest of the day.
His next start, he showed no red flags in terms of his control, with very few bad misses. The leadoff batter in the second inning walked on four straight fastballs that missed down and in to the righthanded hitter. White quickly was able to recalibrate and pounded the zone with his fastball the rest of the game, an encouraging sign to see him self-correct with an in-game adjustment.
Teams have different appetites for how high they're willing to draft a high school pitcher in the first round. From what White has shown over the years, he comfortably fits among the elite group of prep arms this year, and his first few starts this spring have reinforced his status within that tier.