Tyler White: What to Believe?

The American League’s first player of the week was, you guessed it, Tyler White. The same Tyler White who most people did not project being even the back-up first baseman coming into spring training is absolutely raking so far. Much of the talk regarding fantasy value for prospects who surprised early has been going towards Trevor Story, but Tyler White is another player who is garnering significant attention. Last week, when I wrote about undrafted first basemen, White was owned in 36% of CBS leagues. Today? 87%. August Fagerstrom did a wonderful job developing comps for White, which I still think are applicable. What I want to do today is try to assess his fantasy value for you.

First thing I noticed so far about White is that it appears he has drastically changed his approach at the plate so far. Granted, this season is a small sample size, but check out these BB and K rates from the minors versus today:

Tyler White Stat Line
2013 Astros (R) 18 73 2 10 12 2 9.6 % 11.0 % .141 .364 .344 .411 .484 .410 156
2013 Astros (R) 18 78 1 11 15 0 9.0 % 9.0 % .190 .393 .365 .474 .556 .485 202
2013 Astros (A-) 28 127 3 19 25 1 10.2 % 7.1 % .098 .287 .286 .362 .384 .357 130
2014 Astros (A) 71 290 7 41 41 0 12.1 % 13.8 % .180 .337 .305 .414 .485 .411 159
2014 Astros (A+) 43 186 8 28 23 0 15.1 % 14.5 % .260 .276 .267 .403 .527 .405 142
2015 Astros (AA) 59 236 7 33 40 1 17.8 % 14.8 % .142 .313 .284 .415 .426 .390 142
2015 Astros (AAA) 57 259 7 37 59 0 16.2 % 14.7 % .197 .412 .362 .467 .559 .453 178
2016 Astros 10 37 3 3 10 0 8.1 % 27.0 % .375 .550 .438 .486 .813 .539 271

Based on these numbers, it seems like White has become more aggressive at the plate and is making superior contact particularly with his BABIP currently, which is absolutely not sustainable. Again, small sample, so I am curious to see how these rates progress as the year goes on.

When looking at his various swing percentages, however, I am not sure how true that is. Granted, I can only compare to league averages since we do not have his O-Swing% and Z-Swing% for the minors, but in the pros, he has shown more discipline than the average hitter in 2016. That’s not a surprise as he exhibited great plate discipline in the minors, walking more than he struck out. Here are his numbers for swinging at pitches outside of the zone and inside the zone:

Tyler White Plate Discipline
Season Team O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact% Zone% F-Strike% SwStr%
2016 Astros 22.2 % 58.7 % 38.8 % 50.0 % 84.1 % 73.4 % 45.5 % 48.7 % 10.2 %
2016 Average 27.3 % 65.9 % 46.1 % 58.4 % 85.1 % 77.0 % 48.7 % 60.0 % 10.5 %

As you can see, he is generally more passive than the rest of the league. His out of the zone swing % (O-Swing %) and in the zone swing percentage (Z-Swing %) are both below average. His selectivity has resulted in him forcing pitchers to throw him in the zone and he is capitalizing at a rate that will not stand…man. Additionally, he is functioning at a lower contact rate than league average, and much less than his minor league contact percentage average (82%), so his professional profile appears to be much different than his minor league profile, yet he is producing much better.

The comps Fagerstrom came up with were mostly players who walked at least 10% of the time as rookies (exceptions being Conor Jackson and Jason Phillips). If memory serves me correctly, all those comps were prospects that definitely knew how to walk and showed some doubles power, with questions about their home run power. White already has three home runs in less than two weeks of play, which is essentially a fifth of what he has hit individually in 2014 and 2015 in the minors. He has hit a home run in almost every ten plate appearances.

Will he sustain this power?

Doubtful. White, so far, has a HR/FB rate of 33.3%, whereas league average hovers around 10%. So the power should not sustain itself over the course of the year. The average and OBP numbers will also drop, but could still sit at a high level based on his minor league numbers.

So what does this mean for your fantasy team?

Be wary of natural regression, and I worry about the change in approach. Sure, it’s working now, but White can still be an effective player keeping the K’s down and getting the BB rate up. Again, I am working off a small sample this year so my expectation is that he will somehow revert to that. In terms of counting stats, steals will be nonexistent. Home runs will go down, but maybe he has turned a corner that some of those other players he was compared to did not. Just don’t expect this rate to continue. I do like his R.B.I. opportunities in the line-up he is in. Correa, Springer, and Altuve should get on-base enough to give him those chances to drive in runs. Raising his contact rate would bode well for him in that category.

I haven’t tweaked my total rankings just yet, but I would be comfortable putting him in my 6th Tier, who features Chris Carter, Wil Myers, Stephen Piscotty, and Mark Trumbo. White is a different player than those guys, but even when the power drops, he still has value in his own individualized way, at least based on past minor league statistics.

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8 years ago

Since he is 3B eligible, where would you place him in that position- behind say Moustakas? How much of boost do you give white in OBP leagues?