Pittsburgh Pirates outfield prospect Lonnie White Jr. put together a healthy, strong 2023 season and flashed why he was a highly touted prospect in the 2021 draft
Coming out of the 2021 MLB Draft the Pittsburgh Pirates were widely considered to have one of the best draft classes of any organization in baseball. A big reason for this was due to Ben Cherington selecting multiple top 100 talents outside of the first round, and managing to sign each of them.
One of these players was outfielder Lonnie White Jr. Many publications had White Jr. as a bonafide first-round talent in the 2021 draft. However, there were signability questions due to his commitment to play wide receiver at Penn State. Due to this, White Jr. fell to the 64th overall pick in the draft where he was selected by the Bucs.
Injuries plagued the beginning of White Jr.'s professional career. Between 2021 and 2022, he was limited to just 40 plate appearances in 11 games played in the complex league. This put White Jr. in a position where, more than anything, he was in need of a healthy 2023 campaign.
White Jr. did not just have a healthy 2023 season, he had a 2023 season that saw him flash why he was so highly thought of entering the 2021 draft. Across two levels, White Jr. put up big offensive numbers and established himself as one of Pittsburgh's top position player prospects.
The 20-year-old began the 2023 season back in the Florida Complex League. White Jr. played 17 games with 76 PAs in the complex league, hitting for a .317/.434/.444 slash line with a 136 wRC+. He had a 14.5% walk rate, 25.0% strikeout rate, and hit a home run with 5 doubles while posting a .127 isolated slugging (ISO).
This performance earned White Jr. a prootion to the Low-A Bradenton Marauders. With the Marauders, White Jr. accumualted 200 PAs in 44 games played. In these 200 PAs, his offensive numbers saw an uptick over what he accomplished in the complex league.
White Jr. hit for a .259/.395/.488 slash line with a 140 wRC+ with Bradenton. He hit 8 home runs, while collecting 20 extra base hits to go with a .228 ISO. While his strikeout rate rose to 28.0%, his walk rate also rose climbing to 16.0%.
The 2024 season could be a huge one for White Jr. While he will likely start the season back with Brandenton, seeing him start at High-A would not be a surprise. It would be far from the first time Cherington and his regime have been aggressive with prospect placement/promotions.
Regardless of where White Jr.'s season begins, if he hits anywhere near the way he did last season he will only continue to climb the Pirate farm system and prospect boards. By the end of the 2024 season, White Jr. could be a consensus top 10 prospect in the Pirate farm system and potentially a top 100 prospect in baseball.