Astros player development is at it again. This time it’s a 27-year-old former 33rd round pick leading a recent offensive charge late in the season to push the Astros a step in front of the A’s. He goes by the name of Tyler White, a name that has been familiar with the rounds of Major League Baseball, logging 501 plate appearances in three separate big league stints the past three seasons.
To cut straight to how good White has been in a small, but not microscopic sample size of 158 plate appearances, only three hitters in baseball with as many plate appearances as him have been better with the bat; Mike Trout, Jose Ramirez, J.D. Martinez (you might recognize them!). It was a hot month of August where White received semi-regular playing time for the first time this season, hitting for a gaudy 198 wRC+ in 91 plate appearances. It was one of the hottest stretches we’ve seen from a hitter this season.
Top montly wRC+ by a hitter in 2018
This tear that White is on started before his major league call-up this season. On a deep roster like the Astros, it was hard for White to get serious consideration for the majority of the season. Running with the likes of Evan Gattis, Marwin Gonzalez, Yulieski Gurriel, and Alex Bregman on the corner infield and at DH, White had to start at Triple-A.
The prospect of his major league career wasn’t looking great at this time, as he was spending time at this level for the fourth straight season. A hitter without much power in the lower-minors, focusing on being a line drive, contact-first hitter. His power threat took a step forward once he reached high-A in 2014, though he lost some of his superb plate skills once this happened. His 313 plate appearances in triple-A this year perhaps showed his best blend of power, contact, and on-base skills, leading him to a 166 wRC+.
I think the main key to White’s success has been finding his pitch. He’s swinging less and whiffing at a lower-rate than he ever has. He’s finding the pitches that he can drive, while also finding the ones he can’t. His swinging-strike rate, out-of-zone-swing-rate, and swing-rate are all noticeably down.
It’s the offspeed that he’s mostly sitting on, letting out-of-zone changeups, curveballs, and sliders go.
And then he attacks the fastball, particularly the four-seamer, a pitch that he’s smacked six of his 11 home runs on.
At the moment, White looks like a clear front-runner to log postseason plate appearances at DH for the Astros. His rest of season wRC+ projections (via Steamer) look better than any of the other options.
- Tyler White: 116
- Evan Gattis: 111
- Marwin Gonzalez: 102
You could also argue he deserves a look at first base, with Yulieski Gurriel and his 98 wRC+ currently manning the position.
The combination of power and contact skills are making Tyler White look for real. A new approach of swinging less is doing some major favors for his career. Look for the Astros to be relying on his bat come playoff time, and in 2019 while we’re at it.