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Braves acquire OF Eli White from Rangers for cash considerations

The 28-year-old speedster hasn’t hit, but does a bunch of other stuff well

Texas Rangers v Chicago White Sox Photo by David Durochik/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Thought one late-night acquisition was going to be it for the Braves? Think again, friends:

That said, this move is considerably less notable than the earlier acquisition of Lucas Luetge.

Eli White has appeared in parts of the last three seasons for the Rangers, and he hasn’t hit at all. I don’t mean, “oh, he got really unlucky with bad outputs,” or “he hits the ball hard but needs to make contact.” What I mean is, “he’s been pretty abominable with the bat.”

In 389 career PAs, White has a 56 wRC+, with an xwOBA that basically matches his wOBA. He strikes out a ton, makes weak contact, and pops up a ton. Weirdly enough, he isn’t a guy that has launch angle or pull issues — he swings like he’s got real pop, except he doesn’t. He has horrendous contact rates; a saving grace is that he doesn’t chase much, which at least helps him walk, but no contact and no power is an almost un-salvageable combination.

Except, well, White does other stuff really well. Last year, he somehow posted 0.9 fWAR in 117 PAs (that’s a 4.6 fWAR/600 pace!!!) despite a 67 wRC+, because he somehow produced four runs’ worth of baserunning value in those 117 PAs, and added another five runs’ worth of defensive value, while playing in left field about half the time. To be clear, White somehow posted +3 OAA runs in just 148 13 innings in center field last year, which is about a tenth of a full season. For comparison, Michael Harris II, who played excellent center field defense last year, posted +6 OAA runs in 1,021 innings. Basically, he’s incredibly fast (his lowest speed percentile came in 2020 when it was 98th; his worst ranking was 12th in MLB, which came last year) and he uses that speed to rack up tons of defensive value.

But, he still can’t hit, which gives him 0.8 career fWAR in 389 PAs. That’s not bad, a solid bench guy... just a really unorthodox one in this day and age. Can the Braves fix his contact issues or his lack of strength? Probably not! Are they going to coach him differently than the rest of his teammates and have him stop trying to swing for the fences? Who knows, but also probably not! Is this the last we’ll see of Hoy Park, Atlanta Brave? So long, Mr. Park, we hardly knew ye!

Side note: while White has barely played in the minors over the last few years, he has actually hit decently in Triple-A in his last 100ish PAs, and generally hit well as an older-ish hitter across various minor league levels. Still, his lack of raw strength is pretty conspicuous.

Also, good lord, this cursed image:

Okay, one more Eli White Fun Fact: he’s the rare player that was drafted not two, but three times, signing when taken in the 11th round of the 2016 Draft after refusing to sign in 2013 and 2015 when taken in the 26th and 37th rounds, respectively.

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