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Mitchell White Sows A Whirlwind With Whiffs

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Two years after surgery, Mitchell White pitched his way out of draft obscurity Two years after surgery, Mitchell White pitched his way out of draft obscurity[/caption] SEE ALSO: All The Picks, All The Signing Bonuses
Gabe Ribas pitched at Northwestern and professionally in the Padres and Phillies systems. He’s coached college baseball since his playing career ended and was able to see all the West Coast Conference has had to offer since the 2012 season. John-Manuel This was the best year for Friday starters that the Santa Clara pitching coach has seen, as the league brimmed with velocity. Corbin Burnes of Saint Mary’s was the headliner coming off a strong Cape Cod League performance, but the WCC also had Gonzaga’s Brandon Bailey, Brigham Young’s Mike Rucker and Pepperdine’s A.J. Puckett, who pitched more than 40 consecutive scoreless innings and went in the second round to the Royals. But Puckett went 67th overall in the draft; Burnes fell to the fourth round, 111th overall. Instead, it was a pitcher Ribas coached, righthander Mitchell White, who was the first WCC pitcher drafted, taken in the second round, 65th overall, by the Dodgers. “Of the guys I’ve played with, seen and coached,” Ribas said, “he’s the best I’ve seen. He struck out 120 guys or whatever (actually 118), and he could have struck out 170. He’s just so new to pitching.” It’s not that White never pitched before 2016. He just never pitched very much. “I just pitched in high school,” White said with a laugh, “but I was pretty useless. I only pitched about 25 innings for my high school team.” White hails from San Jose and played at Bellarmine Prep, which has produced big leaguers such as Pat Burrell and Kevin Frandsen, among others. White had elbow issues that limited his prep career, though he did pitch in the summers for Trosky Baseball’s travel teams, playing with the likes of Matt Krook, Rowdy Tellez and Chris Viall, among others. White pitched enough to get exposure and committed to Santa Clara, then had to have Tommy John surgery the fall of his freshman year, costing him that season. But the time off and rehabilitation from the surgery made White a very different pitcher, one who was far from useless. “I think the rehab played a part in it,” White said. “I think physical maturation was another. Maybe this is too simple, but I got in shape. I had better habits. I ate better, worked out better, got stronger, learned to use my legs.” And when White got healthy, he pitched well. Very well. He led the Broncos with 29 relief appearances last year, going 3-2, 3.62 with 40 strikeouts in 32 innings and picked up five saves after becoming Santa Clara’s closer. He got more work in pitching for Lima in the Great Lakes League last summer, but no one, not even Ribas, saw this season coming. White took off early and kept gaining steam as his stuff got better. By his last two starts, the 6-foot-4, 207-pounder had become a monster. “He just started throwing a changeup (in March),” Ribas said, “and he’d getting swings and misses with changeups. He learned a cutter last year; I mean, he’s 93-95 with natural cut, but now he throws a true cutter at 87-90. When it’s bad, it morphs into a low-80s slider, speeding up guys’ bats with it, but when he’s 86-90, it’s untouchable to both sides of the plate. And he has an overhand hammer (curve), 77-80, and it’s a bastard.” Against Portland, White struck out 15 in a one-hit shutout, with 74 of his 100 pitches going for strikes. While BYU put up six runs against him in his season finale, White hit 97 mph and hit 96 10 times according to BYU’s radar gun. He finished the season 3-6, 3.72 with 118 strikeouts and just 27 walks in 92 innings, averaging 11.54 strikeouts per nine innings, 11th in Division I. White had attracted some crosschecking attention late, particularly in a matchup with Saint Mary’s and Burnes, but the draft attention picked up as the season wound down. The attention came from clubs and agents, as well as Baseball America. I first spoke to him the weekend of NCAA regionals, when his season was over. “It’s exploded,” he said. “I’ve been doing phone calls and meetings pretty consistent all week. I’ve filled out questionnaires, and it does seem like there’s a lot of interest, particularly from the Rays and Dodgers.” I spoke to White again a week after the draft, after the whirlwind. He landed with the Dodgers, becoming the highest-drafted Santa Clara player since Randy Winn (also 65th overall) in 1995. He signed for a $592,000 bonus, nearly $400,000 below the slot value but still far ahead of the bonus he would have had prior to his late spurt and burst of attention. White said at the start of the year, he was hoping to maybe just get drafted. Then he recognized that as a starting pitcher with a lot of strikeouts, he had a chance to “go good,” in draft parlance. Still, he didn’t have a draft party or anything; he was expecting to be picked in the third round or later, on the draft’s second day, and was playing the video game “Call of Duty” with a friend the night of the draft when his agent Matt Sosnick called him. “You better call your mom and dad and your friends and whoever else you want to real fast,” White recalls the agent saying. “You’re about to get picked by the Dodgers.” He flipped on MLB Network just in time to see this writer break him down on the show after the Dodgers made the selection. Ranked No. 138 as a late pop-up on the BA 500

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, he went more than 70 spots higher. “That was fun seeing you on there,” he said. “You summed me up well. Then my buddy and I went absolutely nuts celebrating.” White grew up a Giants fan but said his mother has Dodger ties through her father and was emotional about the selection. “It worked out perfectly,” he said. “I know the Giants have won some World Series lately, but now it’s time to mix that up a bit, you know?” A finance major at Santa Clara, White didn’t think twice about signing and can’t wait to start his pro career. He wasn’t sure what the Dodgers’ plans for him this year will be, whether he’ll stay in Arizona due to his career-high workload this spring or if he’ll be sent out to another affiliate, perhaps Rookie-level Ogden. What he does know is, he got better—a lot better—at Santa Clara the last two years since getting healthy, and the baseball world noticed, sending him on a journey that in one way just ended but in another is just beginning. “It’s just been go, go, go for the last few weeks,” he said, “Now it’s going to be all baseball, which is nice.” Not bad for a useless high school pitcher.

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