Could White stay in Houston for good?
As Eric Huysman wrote earlier today, Tyler White has been recalled to the major league roster to replace Doug Fister as he goes on paternity leave. The White call-up was inevitable. He was very impressive in his 38 game stint with Triple-A Fresno at the plate. Also, he added some new skills defensively that can prove valuable. White, as a whole, has improved tremendously in his time with Fresno. As Luis Valbuena and Carlos Gomez rest their right hamstrings, he may now have the skills to make a short yet positive contribution for the major league club.
After having a solid spring, White won the Opening Day first base job. However, over time, his high contact bat in the minors did not translate well in the major leagues. In his 53 games, White hit .211 with a .682 OPS.
OPS was one of the main problems for White at the major league level. White had only a .296 on-base percentage in his 189 at bats and walked 19 times. Slugging wise, he was not much better. 15 of his 35 hits were for extra bases, and he hit seven home runs.
However, the problem with White was the problem that has plagued many Astros prospects that came to the major league level this season, including A.J. Reed, Colin Moran, and Alex Bregman. White struck out a lot. Striking out 24.3% of the time, White had 46 strikeouts in his stint with the Astros.
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When the Astros made the roster move on June 25th to begin what then was considered a new, permanent chapter at first base, White knew it would be hard to win back the first base job at the major league level. Sent down about a week earlier, White started to get reps all around the baseball diamond. In his 34 games at Fresno this season, he has played at first base, third base, left field, and shortstop.
At the June 21st game at Round Rock, White looked very comfortable at third base, showing off his range and throwing arm that everyday first baseman does not possess. This was opposed to another player in the lineup that was playing out of position; a tall, lanky and uncomfortable Moran trying to play shortstop.
The reason why manager Tony DeFrancesco has played White all over the diamond has been to get his bat in the lineup. In 34 games, White hit .288 with a .935 OPS. He also hit 16 extra base hits and drove in 26 runners. White continued the power surge that he had for his short time in an Astros uniform, hitting 11 home runs in 189 at-bats. And even though his walk percentage decrease when he came back to Fresno, White’s on base percentage increased to .352 and his strikeout rate decreased to a respectable 15.2%.
With a .583 slugging percentage, White has the bat to make an impact at the major league level. He may even make the case for taking over Valbuena’s role off of the bench next season when he becomes a free agent after the 2016 season. That role off of the bench could be valuable for Astros manager A.J. Hinch especially if he could be a super-utility man like Marwin Gonzalez. It would provide more power in a role that is normally limited to low contact and durable infielders.
This weekend may not change anything for White. He may not get a lot of playing time. However, if he shows that he has improved after his stint in Fresno. It’s going to be hard to get rid of him.
***Stats provided by Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and MiLB.com***