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Astros Spring Spotlight: Tyler White

An unsung draft pick is knocking at the door of the major league club.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler White, a 2013 33rd round draft pick, is a minor leaguer who is competing for a first base or DH position with the big league club this spring.  As a 33rd round pick out of Western Carolina, White wasn't on a track to become a big leaguer.  Players drafted that low are expected to become organization fodder--not "prospects," but just filling out the low minor league teams. However, a funny thing happened on the way up the minor league chain.  White hit the cover off the ball at every level.

After 57 games in AAA, posting a 178 wRC+ and a .362, .467, .559 batting line, White is knocking at the door of the big league club.  White has played 1b and 3b in the minors, but he probably isn't strong enough on defense to contend for the hot corner.  That leaves 1b, DH, and pinch hitting as the potential positions he could fill at the big league level.  White likely is an underdog to win a 25 man roster spot out of spring training. But White has been an underdog throughout his professional career.  And, even if he returns to AAA after spring training, White could be in line for a future call up to the majors later this year.

How well has White hit in the minors?  In stops at seven minor league levels (including two rookie leagues), White has never exhibited a wRC+ less than 130. Between AA and AAA last year, his wRC+ was 160.  He is a career .911 OPS hitter in the minors.  His career OBP is .422.  He has a career walk rate of 14%, and he has more walks than strike outs over his career.   This kind of plate discipline bodes well for major league success.

Over the winter, White continued to destroy pitching.  He was the batting star of the Dominican Winter League with a .936 OPS and 10 HRs in 59 games.  That kind of winter league domination is reminiscent of J.D. Martinez's winter league performance in the off-season before his break out with Detroit.

White profiles as more of a line drive/plate discipline hitter rather than a big HR slugger.  His batting profile is comparable to such first basemen as Lyle Overbay, Nick Johnson, and Ryan Klesko. (Those names fit based on this fangraphs filter list.)  Listed at 5-11, 225, White doesn't have the ideal physique to be a high level defender.  But a high level hit tool may be the best track to get to the majors.

White is the underdog, though, with several obstacles to winning a 25 man roster spot.  First, he isn't on the 40 man roster, and there is a cost to the organization if prospects are put on the 40 man roster before they are required to do so. Second, Jon Singleton is first in line for the first base competition, and he already has a $10 million ML contract.  Third, A.J. Reed is right behind White in the minor league chain, and he has the advantage of more raw power and a better prospect pedigree.  And, fourth...well, the gap between the major leagues and AAA is tougher than the difference between any other levels (just ask Jon Singleton).  But, I wouldn't bet against Tyler White.