Five games into the 2016 season and Mikey White is off to a slow start with the High-A Stockton Ports. White, the Oakland A’s 2015 second-round pick, had similar struggles during a stint with the Low-A Beloit Snappers last season, and he says that experience with the Snappers taught him a lot about how to approach the ebbs-and-flows of a long season.
White began his pro career like gangbusters. The University of Alabama product signed soon after the draft and was sent to short-season Vermont to begin his pro career. He was one of the top hitters in the pitcher-friendly New York-Penn League during his time with the Lake Monsters, batting .315/.405/.459 in 29 games.
When Franklin Barreto went down with a wrist injury in Stockton at the end of July, it set off a series of moves that allowed the A’s to promote several of their infield prospects. White was one of those prospects, and he headed to the Midwest League as the second position player from the A’s draft class to make it to a full-season league. Not much came easy for any member of the Snappers’ club in 2015, and White was no exception. He hit only .200 with a .283 OBP in 35 games with Beloit.
When the season ended, White reported to the A’s fall Instructional League and he got his bat going once again. He was one of the standouts from that camp and he carried that production into this year’s spring training. Those performances earned White a promotion to the California League to start the 2016 season.
“Last year, I had my ups and down,” White said before Stockton’s game on Sunday. “Going into spring training, I just tried to slow the game down, stay consistent with my at-bats. I ended up doing really well in spring training and ended up here. I’m just trying to continue what I was doing in Arizona.”
One of the highlights of the spring for White was facing Los Angeles Angels’ starter Jered Weaver in a minor league spring training game and hitting a homer off Weaver.
“It’s awesome to get to face those guys who you grew up watching,” White said.
White and the rest of his Ports’ teammates are off to a bit of a slow start offensively. After scoring 13 runs on Opening Night, the Ports have scored a combined 13 runs over the next four games heading into Wednesday night’s contest versus Lancaster. White had two hits on Opening Night but has gone hitless in the four games since then.
After last year’s experience in the Midwest League, White now has a plan of attack when trying to get through a slump.
“I took away from my time in Beloit that I need to stay within myself and not try to do too much,” White said. “I felt like when I got to Beloit, I was trying to prove why I was there instead of continuing to do what I was doing in Vermont. That’s really the main thing that I learned was that I just need to stay within myself and stick with what got me there.”
What got White to professional baseball was a standout career at Alabama as the Crimson Tide’s starting shortstop. White played at least 60 games in each of his three seasons at Alabama and hit .308/.403/.448 during his career. As a junior, White hit .339/.444/.537 and he became the face of the Crimson Tide program. For a Hoover, Alabama, native and the son of a former Alabama football star, White’s time in Tuscaloosa was special.
“I really enjoyed it,” White said. “It was cool getting to follow in my dad’s footsteps as an athlete at Alabama and then getting to make a name for myself instead of being Mike White’s son.”
Playing three years in the Southeastern Conference meant that White played against many of the top players in the NCAA year-in and year-out. Some of those players are now teammates of White’s within the A’s organization, including Ports’ reliever and former Mississippi star Bobby Wahl.
“It was great seeing those guys and playing against them in college and then getting to play with them here,” White said. “Bobby, I played against him when I was a freshman in college and he was a junior. Just getting to meet him face-to-face was really cool. There are guys from all over the SEC and it’s really cool to play with those guys now instead of against them.”
Another one of White’s foes-turned-friends is fellow 2015 A’s draft pick Richie Martin. Martin was the starting shortstop for the University of Florida the past three seasons and the two played against each other frequently in college. White only knew Martin from on-the-field battles before last season, but the two got to know each other better as teammates in Vermont and during Instructs.
“I enjoyed talking to him when he was at Florida and one of us would be on second base. Getting to play with him, I got to know a lot more about him,” White said. “It was cool to meet him. I enjoy conversations with him.”
Because White and Martin are both shortstops taken at the top of the same draft class, they are going to be inextricably linked throughout their minor league careers. Martin’s presence in the A’s organization has already had an impact on White’s career, as the A’s have had White moving around the infield in anticipation of being able to play both players at the same time. White was the Lake Monsters’ starting shortstop before Martin was added to the Vermont roster. Once Martin was on the roster, White split his playing time between second and third base. Although he didn’t have a lot of experience at either position prior to last year, White says that he made a smooth adjustment to those new positions.
“I like learning new positions and learning new things about the game,” White said. “I was comfortable at third and I was comfortable at second, but shortstop is my main position. I’m comfortable everywhere on the field.”
White spent most of his off-season in Orlando working with other pro ballplayers to get ready for the season. One of the main things he focused on was his footwork at both second and third base. This spring, White played mostly shortstop, but also saw time at the other two positions. He has been exclusively at shortstop early in the season with Stockton but anticipates seeing time all over the diamond during the season.