White has brought the offense for playoff-bound FredNats all year originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
The Fredericksburg Nationals clinched a playoff berth Tuesday and, per usual, T.J. White was at the center of the action.
White reached base four times and scored three runs in the FredNats' resounding 15-5 win over the Salem Red Sox. The victory, coupled with a loss by the second-place Carolina Mudcats, clinched them a spot in the Carolina League playoffs and the second-half North division crown. It's the Single-A affiliate's first playoff berth since relocating to Fredericksburg.
As often goes for minor league teams, the names that manager Jake Lowery has filled his lineup card with have changed throughout the season. In the first half, 2021 first-round pick Brady House and breakout international prospect Jeremy De La Rosa were anchoring the lineup. Now, it's prize deadline acquisition James Wood and the surging Will Frizzell, an eighth-round pick of 2021 who didn't join the club until late July.
But one consistent presence all season has been that of White, one of the youngest players in Single-A. The 19-year-old forwent his commitment to Indiana to sign with the Nationals as a fifth-round pick out of Dorman High School in Roebuck, S.C. last summer. Heralded for his power potential, White has put together a strong first full season.
"I'm feeling really good," White told NBC Sports Washington in late August. "I think I've impressed myself and I'm just trying to do the best I can every day, stay healthy and just have that availability.
"I hit four home runs last year in rookie ball so my goal this year was just to hit more than four. I want to get to 10 but if I don't it is what it is but yeah, I feel good about it."
White has since reached that threshold of 10 home runs, entering play Wednesday with a .258 average and .788 OPS in 88 games while tallying 20 doubles, 43 walks and eight stolen bases. He has the highest OPS of any current Fredericksburg player with 200 or more plate appearances this season, providing a steady presence at the top of their lineup.
"Those are impressive numbers alone," Lowery said. "Being 18, 19, those are really good, but I think those doubles will eventually turn into home runs…He's a switch-hitting high school kid, you can't ask for much more. He's been great."
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White bet on himself when he chose to pursue a career in professional baseball rather than develop in college. For him, the choice was simple: He felt that being able to dedicate himself to baseball full-time was the best way to achieve his dream of playing in the major leagues.
It's allowed him the opportunity to work with coaches like outfield and base-running coordinator Coco Crisp, a 15-year MLB veteran the Nationals hired as part of their revamped player development staff last offseason. White lauded Crisp for his "insane footwork" and the lessons he's given on route running and defensive fundamentals.
"I'm getting a lot better than I was last year and, for me, that's what's important," White said. "Just getting better each year and taking that next step as a player."
White and the FredNats will kick off their playoff run with a best-of-three divisional round series against the Lynchburg Hillcats on Sept. 13. If they advance, they will play in the Carolina League championship set for Sept. 18-21.