When former West Marion star Colby White was selected by the Tampa Bay Rays in the sixth round of the 2019 MLB Draft, several draft analysts thought it was a bit of a reach taking a college arm who primarily threw fastballs, hadn’t developed a plus second offering and would strictly be a bullpen arm. Two years later, those analysts are eating crow and the Rays, who are widely regarded as one of the smartest organizations in baseball, are once again getting ready to add another feather to the ole ball cap.
White was off to a record-setting pace this season for the Low-A Charleston RiverDogs, a pace that is not only leading the entire league he’s playing in but also all of the minor leagues. The closer, who earned the nickname “Night Night White” when he was playing at Mississippi State, has struck out an otherworldly 36 batters in 16 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run and walking just one batter. Both his 19.84 strikeouts per nine innings and his 36:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio lead all minor league pitchers who have thrown a minimum of 15 innings. To put that into perspective, there are 120 minor league teams currently playing between the four levels with each one having approximately 13 pitchers on their roster. That’s 1,560 minor league pitchers, and White has the best strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio of all of them.
In what would be his last appearance for the RiverDogs against the Columbia (S.C.) Fireflies, White struck out the side in the ninth inning on just 10 pitches, all strikes, prompting the Rays to recognize he was ready for a new challenge.
With success comes change as White was promoted Monday to Tampa’s High-A affiliate, the Bowling Green Hot Rods in Kentucky. White will be joining the team with the best record in High-A, with the Hot Rods off to a 24-12 start as of press time Tuesday.
The flame-throwing righty may be immediately inserted into the closer’s role for the Hot Rods after recording four saves with the RiverDogs. Bowling Green has used a closer-by-committee approach to this point, but the pitcher who has been given the most save opportunities, Ezequiel Zabaleta, has blown two saves and sports an ugly 6.28 ERA. That’s a stark contrast to White’s sterling 0.00 ERA.
While his upper 90s fastball is still his primary pitch — and being able to locate it better this season has been huge for him — White’s slider has been a revelation. He’s been able to throw it in any count for strikes, and it looks a lot like his fastball coming out of his hand. The fastball-slider two-pitch mix has made millionaires out of a ton of relievers, and White has comparable stuff to some of baseball’s top arms.
Legends on Deck reporter John Ginder agrees, writing “It is hard to say when Colby White will be ready for the major leagues. Prospects progress is anyone’s guess at this point due to the lost season last year. White is someone that everyone in baseball needs to take notice of. His body of work this season speaks for itself. You can be assured that once the bullpen gate opens and the opposing hitters catch a glimpse of his Tampa Bay Rays blue glove, they will know it is time to go night night!”
If White keeps up the pace, the American League East, which features the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles, may want to look into purchasing some energy drinks for their batters in the coming years because the former Trojan will be looking to make them go “night night.”