While we’re still not exactly sure how—or if—the 2020 MLB season will play out, because of all the rule changes and roster ramifications, there still could be a handful of new, young players who emerge as key contributors to their respective clubs at some point this year.
Mitchell White just might be one of those players.
White was already on the team’s 40-man roster, so there was little doubt that the Dodgers would add him to the club’s player pool that was announced earlier this week. The 25-year-old righty was added to the 40-man last November when the team protected several players from the annual Rule 5 draft held at the Winter Meetings.
It seems like the 6-foot-3, 210-pound White has been around forever, but he was chosen just a little over four years ago in the second round of the 2016 draft out of Santa Clara University.
For those who don’t remember the monumental 2016 draft, White was accompanied by first-round pick Gavin Lux, Louisville catcher Will Smith, pitcher Dustin May, St. Mary’s pitcher Tony Gonsolin, outfielder DJ Peters, Central Michigan infielder Zach McKinstry and Vanderbilt pitcher Jordan Sheffield, among others.
Undoubtedly, the Dodgers made it a draft for the ages.
White was the highest Santa Clara draft pick since Randy Winn in 1995, who went in the third round to the Marlins.
White was the West Coast Conference’s regular season strikeout champion in 2016—he fanned 118 batters in his final season as a Bronco. That mark was the most by a Santa Clara pitcher since 1996 and tied for seventh during the NCAA regular season. He made 15 starts, pitched 92 innings and had a 3.72 ERA en route to All-WCC Honorable Mention honors.
In his first year as a professional, White traversed three levels of the farm, having thrown in the AZL League, the Midwest League and the Cal League. Over that span, he made 11 appearances and threw 22 full innings, allowing just seven hits and no earned runs while striking out a whopping 30 batters.
In 2017, he seemingly picked up right where he left off the previous season. Not long after earning Cal League Pitcher of the Week honors at Rancho late in the spring, he was jettisoned to Double-A Tulsa where he made seven more starts, throwing to the tune of a 2.57 ERA.
However, 2018 saw White fall off the map as far as perennial Top 5 prospects go. A broken toe on his left foot, a back ailment, and several other minor injuries took their toll on the youngster, as he he finished the season with a 6-7 record and a 4.53 ERA alongside a 1.41 WHIP over 22 starts—all of which he made at Tulsa.
Between Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2019, he went 4-6 with a 5.09 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP over 23 appearances and 92-2/3 innings. He still struck out 105 batters, which could be one of the factors that led the Dodgers to add him to the 40-man.
“He’s throwing a lot of strikes and he’s missing a lot of bats,” Dodgers director of player development Will Rhymes said of White last spring. “The fastball velocity has recovered and is even a tick above where it was a couple years ago . . . I think he has a 25 percent miss rate (with his fastball), which is the highest it’s been. And he’s in the zone more frequently with it. I think with the fastball and his ability to command it in the zone—the pitch has a lot of life to it—he’s getting swings and misses on it, and that sets up all the secondary pitches that he has.”
Currently, White is rated as the organization’s 11th-best prospect by MLB Pipeline.
According to MLB Pipeline‘s scouting report, White “features a 93-97 MPH fastball with natural run and sink, an overpowering slider that climbs into the upper 80s with late bite and a hammer curveball. He spent the early part of 2018 working in the low 90s and with more ordinary sliders and curves, though his stuff picked back up later in the season. He also can morph his slider into a harder and equally nasty cutter and is working to refine a changeup to counteract left-handers.”
At this stage, he’s projected to be a mid-rotation starter somewhere in the league. He has thrown in relief at different points of his career, so a bullpen role sometime down the road isn’t necessarily out of the question.
Despite their limited number of true starting pitchers, the Dodgers have plenty of available swingmen—Gonsolin, Ross Stripling, Caleb Ferguson, Dennis Santana—to provide more than enough spot starts if needed. Yet, because of all the unusual circumstances this year, many other players who are part of the pool could see limited opportunities.
Due to his versatility, his vast repertoire, and his ability to throw hard, it would not be surprising at all if White makes his MLB debut at some point this year, especially when considering the short length of training camp and how long it normally takes to stretch out a pitcher’s arm.
Again, if there is indeed a 2020 season.