Owen White wins AFL Pitcher of the Year Award

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- When it came to naming the Arizona Fall League’s Pitcher of the Year, the discussion was brief, the debate non-existent.

Owen White, who was lights out throughout the AFL, was given the honors prior to Saturday’s Championship Game between the Mesa Solar Sox and White’s Surprise Saguaros.

In a hitter friendly environment, White dominated. The Rangers’ No. 28 prospect led the league with 28 1/3 innings pitched, finished third in strikeouts with 29, pitched to a 1.91 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .202 batting average.

"Just came out here and just did what I was supposed to be doing," White said. "Had a great defense behind me, hitters were swinging the bats for me, giving me the lead and I was able to go out and control the game from my aspect, pound the zone and let everybody make plays behind me."

He was a perfect 5-0 over his six starts, three of which were scoreless. The Saguaros turned to the 22-year-old right-hander in Friday’s win-or-go-home game against Glendale, and although he turned in his “worst” start of the fall -- three earned runs over five innings -- he picked up the victory and showed his ability to battle adversity.

White gave up a pair of hits but struck out the side in the first. In the second, he induced a ground-ball double play to escape a jam. And after a chaotic third inning in which he gave up three runs, he settled down to retire seven of the final nine batters he faced as Surprise battled back and scored five runs in three innings to clinch a spot in Saturday’s finale.

A second-round pick (55th overall) from the 2018 Draft, White was sent to the AFL to gain experience and make up for a significant amount of lost time. Tommy John surgery sidelined him in 2019. The cancelled season erased his chance to pitch in 2020, and a broken hand limited White to just 35 1/3 innings in 2021.

White fared well over those 35 1/3 innings, pitching to a 3.06 ERA with 56 strikeouts and 12 walks. He was especially dominant in September, going 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 33 strikeouts over 18 2/3 innings for Low-A Down East.

"When I got injured, I hurt myself, it took away from the team I was playing for at the time," White said. "It took away from the Rangers. They invested a lot in me, and I felt like I let them down. But they’ve given me the opportunity, and God’s plan worked out, and I’ve been able to show a little bit of what I can do out here in the Arizona Fall League."

While White has a fastball that sits in the mid- to upper-90s, a promising changeup and a pair of intriguing breaking balls, he’s yet to pitch above the Low-A level.

The sample size is small and White is still early in his development, but the strong September and dominant AFL campaign gives fans plenty to be excited about.

He still needs to prove himself against more advanced competition and work his way through the system, but it’s easy to see why the Rangers grabbed him in the second round and he certainly enters the 2022 season with an up arrow next to his name.

"You want to just continue the momentum, work hard this offseason," White said. "Come back for Spring Training and, hopefully, be placed in either High-A or Double-A and continue to work to getting to the big leagues."

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