The Astros acquired Alex White along with fellow Alex --Gillingham, this offseason in a trade with the Colorado Rockies for Wilton Lopez and a player to be named later, who to the best of my knowledge has yet to be named. Maybe later. Like many of Jeff Luhnow’s acquisitions this past season White was a well-regarded prospect whose stock has continued to trend in the wrong direction these last couple of seasons. Still he does possess one above average skill that this front office covets, and that is the ability to generate groundballs at an above average rate. Here we will travel into the past and observe the path that Alex White traveled that would eventually lead him to the Houston Astros, and also take a look at what the future may hold for him.
White was drafted 15th overall in the 2009 draft by the Cleveland Indians. He made his professional debut in 2010, and pitched a total of 152 innings with 108 of those innings coming at the AA level where he posted a 2.25 ERA and a 3.54 FIP. He posted a very impressive groundball percentage of 57%, and a walk rate of 2.25 BB/9. I singled out the walk rate there because finding the strike zone in his major league career has been troublesome for White, but more on that later.
White was promoted to the Indians after making just eight starts in AAA-ball in 2011. He made three starts and posted a nice 3.60 ERA, but a more telling 5.69 FIP. Control problems surfaced for the first time in his professional career, but were to be expected for a 22-year old’s first taste of MLB. In his third start he suffered a sprained ligament injury to his right middle finger that cost him two months. The injury is not a common baseball injury, and according to the Indians trainer at the time Lonnie Soloff, it is an injury that is more commonly seen in rock climbing.
While on the disabled list White was traded to the Colorado Rockies in a package for Ubaldo Jiminez. Upon being activated from the disabled list White made four dominant starts in AA-ball where he only walked one batter, and only gave up three earned runs in 16.2 innings. He was promoted to the Rockies and made seven starts while posting an 8.42 ERA. What started out to be such a promising season for White ended in disaster and disappointment. Unfortunately for White the 2012 season would not prove to be any easier.
Alex came to camp in the spring of 2012 looking to break camp with the club, but instead was sent to the Rockies AAA affiliate to start the season. He made four starts there and posted a 2.70 ERA with a 2.40 FIP in 20 innings. His control returned, and he posted a 2.25 BB/9 in those four starts. This earned him a promotion to the Rockies in early May.
He was not able to pick up where he left off in the minors and allowed 20 earned runs in 28.2 innings. The struggles continued in June where he allowed 17 earned runs in 23 innings. What’s worse is that he gave up 15 walks and recorded 16 strikeouts. He was sent down again at the end of June and made five starts totaling 32 innings while posting a 3.94 ERA. He surfaced with the Rockies again at the start of August and would remain with the club for the rest of the season. White had an acceptable August and posted a 4.03 ERA in 29 innings before struggling again in September where he posted a 5.19 ERA in 17.1 innings. He struggled with his control over that time period as well.
Overall White ended the 2012 season with a 5.23 FIP with a 5.88 K/9 and a 4.68 BB/9.
With Houston White gets a much needed fresh start with the hope of whiting out 2012. So just what can we expect from him this season? Well, According to ZIPS, not a whole lot. White is projected to throw 129 innings while posting an ERA of 5.08. He is projected to give up an above average amount of homeruns, and also have a combined walks and hits total of 200 in his 129 innings. That's a lot of traffic on the base paths. As Clack pointed out in a previous thread the move to the AL hurt White more than the evacuation of Coors field helped him in the projections.
Projections aside, there is still hope that Alex White can become a decent starting pitcher. He still possesses a low-nineties sinker that generates a ton of groundballs, and a splitter that when on is considered his best pitch. The key to his success will be his control and command of his arsenal which has been pretty decent in the minors, and pretty bad in the majors. If everything clicks then he could be a big boost to the Astros rotation this year, and if not then his future may lie in the bullpen.