Why the Astros' Tyler White Is a Legitimate Rookie of the Year Candidate
It's not supposed to be this easy for rookies.
Rookies are supposed to struggle when they first reach the Majors. Pitchers are supposed to have the advantage over greenhorn hitters getting their first taste of faster fastballs, curvier curveballs, slidier sliders and changier changeups.
Astros rookie Tyler White earned AL Player of the Week honors after going 10-for-18, 3 HR, 9 RBI in first 6 games pic.twitter.com/8UCeBHBI2O
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 11, 2016
That 10-for-18 equates to a slash line of .556/.591/1.167, an OPS of 1.758, an isolated slugging of .611 and an fWAR already of 0.7. He became the first AL rookie position player to earn the player of the week award in the first week of the season. He's also hit three home runs so far this year, including this one, his second of the year.
Look, even the guy's dad doesn't know what to say about what White is doing this year, and Tyler is directly from his gene pool.
— Daniel Gotera (@DTGoteraKHOU) April 11, 2016
And while Story's seven homers in six games is incredibly impressive and worthy of attention, White is getting lost in the shuffle because of it. And it could be White who will be the better long-term player.
White is certainly worth a waiver wire add in fantasy baseball, and his arrival on the scene didn't come out of nowhere. In fact, there were several members of ESPN's expert panel who picked White to be the American League Rookie of the Year (Aaron Boone and Jim Bowden both picked White and Story to be their Rookies of the Year, by the way), and when you look at White's minor league numbers, all you see is a guy who hit wherever he was.
Never did he post a minor league season with a weighted runs created (wRC+) under 142 (100 is considered league average). And in 259 plate appearances last year at Triple-A, his wRC+ of 178 means he was 78% better than a league average hitter at producing runs. Last year between Double and Triple-A, White hit 14 homers and knocked in 99 runs.
The most impressive part of White 's game is his plate discipline. In Double-A last year he had a 17.8% walk rate and 14.8% strikeout rate. It remained largely the same when he moved up a level, walking in 16.2% of his plate appearances and striking out in just 14.7% of them.
When you're walking more than you're striking out, you've got a terrific idea of what's going on at the plate. So far this season, the ratios have changed a little, with a 9.1% walk rate and 18.2% strikeout rate in just 22 plate appearances.
Yes, it is still very, very early in the season. It is unlikely White will maintain his .556 batting average this year. Call it a hunch. And it is always interesting to see how a young player does when he hits his first slump.
But there is reason to believe Tyler White's start to 2016 is more for real than you otherwise might think.