SEATTLE — A few minutes before the Seattle Mariners made University of Kentucky first baseman Evan White their first-round draft choice Monday, the tense, almost grim mood inside the team’s draft headquarters at Safeco Field transformed into a room where dozens of grown men savored the reality they were about to hit a home run.
“It’s a good day for the Seattle Mariners,” scouting director Scott Hunter said after White slipped past Pittsburgh and Houston, landing at No. 17 with the Mariners. “One of the discussions we have about getting more athletic is putting kids in the system who have the potential for major-league impact. More importantly, this is a kid who’s easy to root for. He’s wired right.
“He’s a unique young man in that he’s not the prototypical showcase workout player. I spoke to his coaches, and they rave about not only his routine, but his dedication to the game and his teammates.”
Assuming he signs, White, 21, is expected to begin his pro career with the Everett AquaSox.
White hit .373, with 10 home runs and 41 RBI for the Wildcats this spring. And though he’s fast enough to have played outfield for the 2016 USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, the Mariners see the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder as a first baseman. White was a second-team all-SEC selection and a semifinalist for the Golden Spikes Award.
“Saving some outs, saving some runs, that’s my goal,” White said during a conference call. “I feel like my work around the bag is something that sets me apart.”
Talking about White’s defensive potential Hunter brought up the name of former Mariners first baseman John Olerud, regarded to be the best in the business.
White identified Eric Hosmerof the Kansas City Royals as the first baseman he strives to emulate.
“He plays a great first base, a Gold Glover,” White said. “He’s someone I watch: An athletic first baseman that can pick it and swing and help teams win in different facets of the game.”
White golfed with his dad on Monday morning, he said, “to take my mind off the draft a little bit. The draft went a lot better than my golf game did, because it was not a good day on the links.”
If Hunter was happy that White stayed on the board until No. 17, he was stunned that Minnesota high school pitcher Sam Carlson fell to them in the second round, with the 55th pick.
Hunter described the 6-foot-4, 215-pound right-hander as “an athlete with a chance at three-plus pitches. He’s up to 95-96 right now.
“A cold-weather kid with a huge upside,” Hunter concluded. “As an organization I don’t think we could have done better than we did today.”
The draft continues Tuesday with rounds 3-10. Rounds 11-40 are Wednesday