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Mariners 1B Evan White
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With an already ‘elite’ glove, Mariners 1B Evan White’s development at plate could make him special

Rookie Mariners first baseman Evan White will make his MLB debut in Houston. (Getty)

From the moment the Mariners selected Evan White in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft, the word on the first baseman has been about his defensive ability. That continued to be the case in spring training and then the recent resumption of training in Summer Camp at T-Mobile Park.

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The hope is that White develops into a threat at the plate, as well, and there may have been a glimpse of that earlier this week.

On Tuesday night, White provided an early highlight by getting out in front of a pitch from fellow Mariners prospect Joey Gerber, yanking a long fly ball just to the left of the foul pole in left field. The ball landed, then kept rolling… all the way out of the ballpark.

A few innings later in the intraquad game, he faced Mariners reliever Dan Altavilla – a standout in Summer Camp – and jumped on a fastball for a home run into Seattle’s bullpen that got out in a hurry.

Mariners broadcaster Aaron Goldsmith joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Tom, Jake and Stacy on Wednesday afternoon, and when the conversation turned to White, he talked at length about why the combination of White’s defense with what he’s showing he’s capable of with the bat is so exciting.

“I don’t want to over-bill somebody, but he’s elite at first base,” Goldsmith said. “Depending on your age and how much baseball you’ve watched, there’s a chance he’s the very best defensive first baseman you’ve ever seen – right now. I think there’s a chance – I almost feel conservative saying this – right now he’s a top three defensive first baseman in the big leagues. I mean, that’s what we’re talking about.”

While the power numbers have been coming along in White’s career in the minors, there’s still work to be done to turn his strength into home runs. And there is a lot of strength to work with.

“This much we’ve known about Evan – he has pretty elite exit velocities, among the hardest-hit exit velos among all Mariners farmhands last year. He played in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark last season in Double-A… and that he’s had over the course of his career more of a propensity to hit the ball on the ground than to hit the ball in the air,” Goldsmith said. “Man, last night (Tuesday) we saw him hit the ball in the air a couple of times and it was incredible. One of them went foul, hit the cart path and bounced out of the ballpark, which even when you hit off a walkway is still almost impossible to do. And then the homer he hit late, just an absolute missile. It was incredible.

“So I think the thing with Evan that the organization has been efforting to do during his brief time as a professional is, how do you unlock him getting the ball in the air? How do you unlock the same exit velocity, the same hard-hit rate, his ability to find the barrel? But instead of the ball hitting the ground or hitting on a line into a gap – which is great – how do you get that puppy into the air? Because if you can unlock that, man, now you’ve got something incredibly special.”

The Mariners signed White to a long-term contract extension in the offseason, something especially rare for a player yet to make his MLB debut, and he’s expected to make that debut Friday as Seattle’s starting first baseman against the Astros in Houston. Goldsmith can see why the team has so much faith in the 24-year-old University of Kentucky product.

“If he can be just close to an average major league hitter with the defense, that’s incredible. Keep in mind, he’s had no meaningful time in professional baseball above Double-A. He’s going to be facing pitchers every night that are going to be the best pitcher he’s ever faced, so he’s going to have a big learning curve. But obviously (the Mariners) believe in the player, they believe in the talent, they believe in the person – I mean he’s just a wonderful human being. This is a guy that I think Mariners fans should be very excited to have as a real pillar for the organization for many years to come.”

You can hear Goldsmith’s full conversation on Tom, Jake and Stacy ahead of the Mariners’ season opener in this podcast.

Follow 710Sports.com’s Brent Stecker on Twitter.

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