White an unlikely candidate for Astros' first-base job

White an unlikely candidate for Astros' first-base job

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- He wasn't offered a scholarship out of high school and instead walked on at Western Carolina, where he became a four-year starter. He wasn't drafted until the 33rd round of the 2013 Draft and doesn't have the kind of tools that make the scouts drool.

Astros infielder Tyler White has never been considered a top prospect, but all he's done during his professional career is put up eye-popping numbers at the plate, and he now finds himself battling with former top prospect Jon Singleton, No. 4 prospect A.J. Reed and Matt Duffy for Houston's starting job at first base.

"I'm not the showcase camp kind of guy," White said. "I didn't have, like, a great arm, couldn't run fast, didn't put on a show in BP or anything. I just always put up good numbers hitting."

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Indeed, the 25-year-old righty with the thick North Carolina accent is a career .311 hitter in 294 career Minor League games. White's ability to make contact and get on base sets him apart. He has a career .422 on-base percentage, with 174 walks and 164 strikeouts.

White hit .325 with 25 doubles, 14 homers, 99 RBIs and a .442 on-base percentage last year combined between Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .362 with a .467 on-base percentage in 57 games.

"I've always been a contact guy, always been able to make contact with a lot of pitches, and I think that helps with getting walks, because I'm pretty decent at fouling some balls off and stuff," White said. "I heard a couple of things in high school and college: When you swing at strikes, you hit the ball well. I've tried to really take that into account and tried to really learn the zone.

"I continue to work on that and try to get better at it and I take pride in strike-zone discipline."

White, who played winter ball in Panama two years ago, went to the Dominican Republic this offseason and hit .297, leading the league with seven home runs. He's never hit more than 15 in any one Minor League campaign, which is a far cry from the gaudy power numbers that Singleton and Reed -- both left-handed bats -- have put up in their careers. The competition will be intriguing.

"It's definitely a competition, but I look at it as trying to be the best I can be and continue to the do things I can do," White said.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch hasn't seen White play much in person, so he plans on giving him a good look this spring. White played third base primarily at Corpus Christi, and then was mostly a designated hitter and first baseman at Fresno. He toyed with catching in the instructional league, but that's not currently in the plans.

"He's not a guy who's had the way paved to where he's at, so he needs to continue to put up quality at-bats," Hinch said. "I'd like to see him at first quite a bit this spring, so he's going to play a lot, and he's a real threat to make our team, and I told him that. It's out of the work he did and the performance he's given. It's been a good story, but it's certainly not complete, because he hasn't made anything yet."

A month from now, White could get pulled into Hinch's office and told he is going to make the team. Or he could get a call later this summer telling him to come to Houston. In either case, reaching the Majors would, of course, be a dream come true, unlikely as it seems.

"It seems so close but still so far," White said.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.