After mashing the ball in his only year at Texas A&M, Boomer White was understandably frustrated with the struggles he faced at the plate in his first professional season with the Tri-City Dust Devils.
White — a third baseman drafted by the San Diego Padres in the 10th round of the 2016 MLB Draft — hit .213 and slugged .270 (11 doubles, no homers) while striking out 34 times in 230 at-bats with the Dust Devils last summer. That came after he led Texas A&M in batting average (.386), slugging percentage (.517) and on-base percentage (.462) while striking out just 16 times in 259 AB’s while facing what he considered similar pitching to what he saw in the Northwest League.
Now, with a season of pro ball under his belt, the die-hard Aggie is ready to show the scouts, coaches and fans what he’s made of.
“Not much is different from last year, I’m just more mentally right,” White said. “Physically I feel the same, I was healthy last year, I’m healthy this year. So yeah, I think it’s all up here (in his head).
“I’m just excited to get going, I get a fresh start. Last year I was coming off an emotional roller coaster in college, didn’t know if I was gonna sign or not. Now I’m just more fresh and ready to go.”
After White’s strong showing in Extended Spring Training, Dust Devils manager Ben Fritz thinks his lone returning infielder from 2016 is poised for a breakout season.
“Boomer, this whole Extended, has swung the bat kind of like what his resume said coming in,” Fritz said. “And I know he didn’t have the year he wanted to have last year. So I for sure see him coming out here and doing some good things.
“I think there’s a little more pressure off him not having to come in and try to live up to what he did in college. This year, I think he’ll have a little more stress-free AB’s.”
Stability at the hot corner will be key for the Dust Devils (34-42 in 2016), as they open the season with a particularly youthful set of infielders — excluding 23-year-old shortstop Felipe Blanco, a 2010 acquisition from the Dominican Republic who started the season at Class AA San Antonio.
But with that youth around the horn comes a lot of young, promising talent.
Seventeen-year-old Dominican shortstop Luis Almanzar was ranked No. 2 among international prospects by Baseball America when he signed a $4 million deal with the Padres last year. The roster also features Venezuelan shortstops Justin Lopez (No. 28, $1.2 million) and Kelvin Melean (No. 26, $500,000 when signed in 2015), who are 17 and 18 years old, respectively.
The younger-than-usual talent begins the season in the Tri-Cities courtesy of the MLB draft getting a late start — it wraps up Wednesday.
“We’ve got a lot of talent, I think we’ve got a lot more talent here than we did last year,” White said. “Justin Lopez, a switch hitter with great hands in the infield, Almanzar, goodness, yeah, we’ve got a ton of guys who are extremely talented.
“While I’m here, I want to get that bitter taste out of my mouth and win more games than we did last year ‘cuz last year we didn’t finish too great.”
The Dust Devils, and White, will get a chance to show their stuff when they open the season at 6:35 p.m. Thursday at Salem-Keizer. Tri-City will play five games against the Volcanoes before returning for three games each against the Spokane Indians (June 20-22) and Everett AquaSox (June 23-25).