Strasburg Alternative No. 3: Alex White
Stephen Strasburg is the consensus No. 1 pick in next yearâ€™s draft. Now, as Dave mentioned in the comments here, history shows that the top guy heading into the season rarely ends up being drafted first overall. Still, the Nationals face a PR nightmare if they donâ€™t draft the player *perceived* to be the best after failing to sign the ninth-overall pick this year, Aaron Crow. So, letâ€™s begin to take a look at some of the alternatives to Strasburg that could be an option for the Mariners with the second-overall pick. Previously, we’ve taken a look at USC SS Grant Green and North Carolina 1B/OF Dustin Ackley. This time, we’ll look at Ackley’s UNC teammate, RHP Alex Whiteâ€¦
In late September, when the Nationals clinched the first pick in the 2009 draft, many Mariners fans (myself included) were disappointed, assuming that San Diego State phenom Stephen Strasburg had just slipped through our fingers. While that may or may not be the case (the draft is still seven months away, after all), there is another pitcher that doesnâ€™t get as much ink as Strasburg, but isnâ€™t too far off, talent-wise.
That pitcher is Alex White, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthander for the University of North Carolina. Teammates with Dustin Ackley, the Tarheels are loaded this year, with two potential top-5 draft picks.
White grew up in Greenville, N.C. where he attended D.H. Conley High School. Prior to the 2006 draft, Baseball America ranked him as the 71st-best draft-eligible prospect. With good stuff and quality makeup, he led the Vikings to a 3-A state title. Here is some video footage from the championship gameâ€¦
Despite being one of the top high school pitchers in the 2006 class, White slipped to the 14th round, when the Dodgers took him. He still wanted big-time money, reportedly asking for $1.4 million, and the Dodgers let him go to school instead.
White headed to Chapel Hill and joined the Tarheels rotation. He pitched in 19 games as the Tarheelsâ€™ Saturday starter and threw 98.1 innings, going 6-7 with a 4.94 ERA. He struck out 83 batters (19.1%) and walked 43 (11%). Whiteâ€™s best performance of the season came in the ACC title game against Virginia when he struck out five over seven scoreless innings. The Tarheels went on to Omaha that year, losing in the championship to Oregon State.
That summer, White played in the Cape Cod League for the Chatham Athletics. He appeared in seven games and started three of them. Over 25.2 innings, White struck out 31 hitters and walked just eight, posting a 2-1 record and maintaining a 2.10 ERA.
White returned to Chapel Hill last year for his sophomore season and improved all aspects of his game, shouldering the load as the teamâ€™s ace. He started 15 games and appeared in 20, throwing 101.2 innings, posting a 2.83 ERA and leading the nation in wins by going 13-3. White struck out 113 batters, good for 27% of those faced. Only nine other pitchers in the country racked up more strikeouts last season. He also cut his walk rate, issuing 42 walks (10%). The season earned him the ACC Pitcher of the Year award and he was a third-team All American for Baseball America.
After throwing more than 100 innings last year, White did not play baseball this summer. Heâ€™s been sharp during the Tarheelsâ€™ scrimmages this fall and is ready to go this spring.
With a heavy fastball that sits between 93-96, a plus slider and an occasional splitter, White is a force on the mound that Baseball America recently ranked the No. 2 draft-eligible prospect in the country. Even if the Mariners donâ€™t get Strasburg, there are some nice consolation prizes and they will certainly be adding an impact player to the organization.