One of the best things about Twitter is how information is shared quickly, and this is especially interesting when it comes to Spring Training. You get to see a hitter's new stance, a pitcher's new leg kick, or a player's new haircut.
But for me, the most interesting thing from the Seattle Mariners Spring Training is this picture below:
Yes, it appears to be Evan White working with the outfielders with an OUTFIELD GLOVE. Sometimes infielders practice with mini-gloves but after zooming in on the picture, that certainly looks like an outfield glove. So far, the Mariners have not announced anything about this topic but this calls for some speculative theories.
Will Evan White be a two-position player in 2023?
It's not crazy to think that Evan White could be another flexible player for the Seattle Mariners. There has been speculation in the past that Evan White would expand his defensive horizons. In 2021, Corey Brock talked about the potential of White getting some practice with outfielders. This made a lot of sense given how well Ty France played at first and a few question marks about the outfield at the time.
Now, it almost seems like that theory is coming to fruition given the picture. Remember all of the foul balls that he caught, his diving catches, and his strong arm? It seemed like the former 1st round pick would be an essential piece of the Seattle Mariners. Sometimes, I even thought we were wasting Evan White's defensive acumen at first base.
I have a good amount of trust that Evan White can play quality, if not elite, outfield. But, the biggest question mark is going to be his offense. I am sure the Seattle Mariners coaching staff will be closely watching how he does with the bat in Arizona.
In his 279 at bats, he owns a .165 batting average and .544 OPS. Not looking so good right?
However, I will defend Evan White because he still has a chance to break out. Let's not forget that he is only 26 years old, he hasn't had much game time in the majors, and has dealt with various injuries.
At media day a few weeks ago, Jerry Dipoto said he is "as healthy as he's ever been." Generally speaking, I think there is a bit of optimism about Evan White's future. Daniel Kramer thinks he will be on the Opening Day roster, the Mariners Twitter community is manifesting a comeback tour, and the Sodo Mojo crew believes in the former prospect.
Evan White, the outfielder, seems more likely for a few reasons
I alluded to this earlier but the Seattle Mariners like players with defensive flexibility. It gives more opportunities to adjust based on the data provided to them. Good examples include Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore, Tommy La Stella, and Ty France to some degree.
And now with Taylor Trammell, unfortunately, being out for approximately 6-7 weeks, it opens up a slot on the bench. Daniel Kramer had Taylor Trammell as an outfield bench option while Jarred Kelenic and AJ Pollock would split time in left field.
There is also still a TBA name at the designated hitter spot, and for now, it will be a rotation of players. Given the current lineup situation, adding OF to Evan White's profile would massively increase his chance of making the Opening Day roster.
If White proves to become an elite outfielder, he could give AJ Pollock or Teoscar Hernandez a break from running down fly balls in the outfield. We could then slot either of them into the DH spot and end up with a pretty good outfield: Evan White, Julio Rodriguez, and Jarred Kelenic.
In addition, Evan White can give Ty France a break at first. Although France has turned into a fantastic first baseman thanks to Perry Hill, White would be a nice upgrade every once in a while.
With Trammell's injury, some folks have brought up Cade Marlowe's to be a temporary fix but I'm not so fond of that approach. We know how hard it is to hit MLB pitching and I'd rather give Evan White more chances than Marlowe.
Does Evan White in the outfield statistically make sense?
Based on what I have been able to find, I'd say yes. The Mariners first baseman has speed, range, a good arm, and is defensive minded.
According to Baseball Savant, Evan White's average sprint speed was 28.2 ft/s in 2020, and 28.0 ft/s in 2021. For context, The fastest average sprint speed in 2020 was 30.7 ft/s, which belonged to Tim Locastro. Here is a short list of outfielders that are in Evan White's realm:
Range is a bit harder to quantify but he covered lots of ground to make sliding catches in foul territory. We can look at Infield Range Runs Above Average but we shouldn't solely rely on this metric. He posted 4 in 2020, and 2 in 2021. For comparison, Matt Olson posted 4's in 2021 and 2022. Olson is actually a decent comparison because played some right field for the Athletics early in his career.
Arm strength is another metric that's harder to compare since he doesn't make long throws often. However, I remember seeing flashes of a quick toss across the diamond to turn double plays. Among first basemen in 2020, Evan White finished 3rd with 80.7 mph on average. His hardest recorded throw also was 80.7 mph.
Now when you compare him to outfielders in the same season, 80.7 mph would put him in the early 100s next to Nick Solak and Andrew McCutchen. If Evan White was in the outfield, I guarantee that average velocity would increase. But based on what we have, when you look at the other names in that 80.7 mph range, there are a lot of familiar names. George Springer - 79.9 mph, Juan Soto - 79.6 mph, Christian Yelich - 79.4 mph.
Small disclaimer here, first baseman aren't as often asked to make throws, so it's harder to judge their arms. There is not reason not to think that his arm strength would jump a fair amount when given a chance to throw from the outfield.
Last but not least, I think Evan White has a defensive IQ that isn't quantifiable. I can't remember any blatant defensive mistakes from 2020 and 2021. If he can play a Gold Glove first base, I'm certain that his defensive mindset will translate well in the outfield because of his athleticism.
Evan White also adds value to himself = increased trade value for the Seattle Mariners
I think one of the underlying points of this speculation is how it increases Evan White's value. Every team in the MLB knows that the Kentucky product can pick it at first. But, if he adds corner outfield to his resume, that's a lot more valuable for teams, especially for someone that hasn't quite produced at the plate.
First base is traditionally an offense > defense position so his hitting will already have a skewed bias. By adding outfield to his profile, I think it loosens the stress of his offensive numbers a little.
I also know that his contract isn't favorable for other teams as things stand. However, if he quickly turns things around some teams might be willing to take a flyer on him.
Remember, Evan White isn't in bust status yet. He's 26, had a few promising advanced statistics in 2020, and is finally healthy (as far as we know). in 2020, the right handed hitter was in the top 5% in hard hit rate and finished in the top 10% for max exit velocity.
I am extremely excited to see what transpires because this is the first image we've seen Evan White using an outfield glove. I hope he gets a chance in the outfield not only to grow his value, but for him to get another chance in the Mariners lineup. All Mariners fans shouldn't give up on him because it's too early.
Only time will tell whether we are living in another dimension or if this is reality.