Tyler White somewhat unceremoniously made the Houston Astros out of Spring Training in the hopes of solidifying first base, a position the Astros have seen power from, but not much else. By the end of September, expect him to surpass Trevor Story as the biggest story for 2016 rookies.
With Chris Carter off to the Brewers and Luis Valbuena exclusively playing third base, Houston needed a first baseman and White earned the role hitting: .353/.443 with three home runs and 12 RBI in 22 games this March. Eight games into the regular season, the 25-year-old rookie has continued crushing the ball, hitting; .520/.567 with three home runs and 10 RBI.
It’s a hot start by any account and it’s also eight games, an impossibly small sample size, so what makes White’s success a better long-term indicator than the Colorado shortstop?
First, let’s review Story’s case. Story has impressed even more so this young season, hitting seven home runs in his first six games, a Major League first and not going hitless in any game until Tuesday night, his seventh game. In 31 at bats so far, Story has seven home runs (tops in the majors), 12 RBI and is hitting .290/.313, putting to rest any concerns about Jose Reyes and his lurking suspension for domestic abuse allegations.
Story is only 23-years-old and won’t be 24 until the off season. He earned his spot after playing professional minor league ball since 2011, his first year in the Rockies’ system. Story struggled often in the minors, needing to repeat two different levels before posting a solid .279/.350 line with 20 home runs between AA and AAA last season. As a supplemental first round pick, Story’s scouting report projects him as a potential starter or super utility player. He has struck out 120+ times four times in the minors and over 140 times three times. Players can always out play their projections, but it’s White may not need to.
The 33rd round first base selection has never had an OBP below .400 in the minors, rising from rookie ball to AAA in just three seasons. White capped his AAA experience with a .362/.467 line hitting seven home runs in 57 games but driving in a whopping 59 RBI.
A little bit older, White is 25-years-old and his severe contact rates seem to be met with developing power early this season. Story will benefit from Coors Field and the fact he has seven home runs before half of April is over. White will benefit because he’s in a brutal lineup (the Rockies don’t hit as well away from Coors) and he’s older.
But White is the better hitter at this juncture with the career .311/.422 slash line in over 1200 minor league at bats. Story will eventually stop homering every single night, and will likely end up somewhere in the 20’s with the benefit of Coors once pitchers adjust.
The problem is, unlike White, pitchers will adjust and Story will miss a lot of pitches if his minor league contact rate is any indication. While White won’t hit over .500 all season, he has a better chance of putting the ball in play and getting on base, and should have the better numbers by the end of the season.