From bizarre to typical to incredible, the story of Alex White in the Cleveland Indians organization continues to intrigue every passing day. Drafted in the first round of last year’s MLB Draft out of North Carolina, White was slated from the beginning as an eventual reliever for the long-term in Cleveland.
The comments from the Indians were immediate, including those from Bud Grant, director of amateur scouting, who was paraphrased as saying to the Plain Dealer that: “White likely will be converted to a reliever, a process that would begin next season. The Indians view him as a power arm in the back end of the bullpen.”
Since that point in time, the organization has fallen away from that track and had White begin his professional career this April in Kinston as a starter. Not only has he proved to be worthy of his $2.25 million last-minute signing bonus since that time, but he has promptly emerged as possibly the best right-handed pitching prospect in Cleveland in the last decade.
As if starting the year as a starter in the Advanced-Class A Carolina League was not enough, White quickly jumped up to Double-A Akron after only eight starts. Each of his last four outings in Kinston were quality starts as he arguably completed his entire Class A career with a 2-3 record and a 2.86 ERA.
“It was a goal of ours to be here but I don’t know if we quite expected it to be so soon,” White said recently about his quick promotion. “You know, we thought we would probably get here later on in the year and hopefully play in the playoffs in Akron.”
Moving up to a struggling team with an entire pitching staff ERA of 5.09 on May 23rd, White was thrown into the fire as the potential ace of the rotation. He was clearly just another fish in the ocean now, surviving as one of seven different first or second round picks on the Aeros.
Promptly, a new phase came to pass for Akron led by the 21-year-old White, the youngest player on the entire roster. He continued his streak with four straight quality starts and after then two simply average outings, has gotten back to yet another stretch of solid pitching on today’s two month celebration of his promotion.
“We got here around May and it’s really been a blessing,” he said. “I’ve actually gotten a lot better since I’ve been in Akron and I’ve changed from being an average pitcher with average stuff to a pretty good pitcher with pretty good stuff in two months.”
And to say simply “pretty good” is almost an under-statement to the type of success White has had recently. Since May 23rd, White ranks second in the 12-team Eastern League with a 1.50 ERA in his 11 outings, pacing the EL with a .194 batting average against.
At Kinston and at North Carolina, White was known as a power arm with the potential to develop even more pitches in his arsenal. In Akron however, he has emerged as a dominant all-around pitcher with his 1.78 ground out-to-air out ratio ranking fifth best among EL pitchers with at least 60.0 innings pitched during this time.
“My off-speed stuff has just been coming around a lot lately as my splitter and my slider have both been pretty good,” he said. “They can always get better, but from there start of the season in April when I had nothing, to now, it’s just been a giant leap.”
White now is on yet another streak of five consecutive quality starts and easily leads the entire Akron staff with nine on the season. Before his promotion, starters had only recorded six such outings in 42 contests but led by the young right-hander, have 20 in the past 55.
With 110.0 innings pitched this year however, the Indians might now be looking to control his work load for the rest of 2010. As of his last outing on Monday, he ranked ninth in all of minor league baseball with his 2.05 combined ERA and .196 batting average against as well as in the top 50 in overall innings pitched. Thus, he earned a few extra days off alongside the EL All-Star Break and he probably will remain with the Aeros for the remainder of the season.
After 2010 however, expect White to continue to blaze up the minors and you’ll see him quite soon in a Cleveland uniform. For the time being though, he is humble about this season and praises his teammates in reference to his upcoming hopes and goals.
“I haven’t looked in a few days, but we’re only a half game back of making the playoffs. I think we’re playing well and we are one of the better teams in this league,” he said about his goals for the remainder of the season. “We have a great lineup, a great pitching staff and if we can make the playoffs and make the run at it, then everybody enjoys winning, and I know we will be having fun.”
(Photo via Ed Suba Jr./Akron Beacon Journal)