First baseman Evan White got an immediate feel for the big-league life Friday afternoon when he walked into the Mariners’ clubhouse on the visit that all first-round draft picks get once they reach a contract agreement.
"Nelson Cruz," White said. "He is actually the first one I met, and he is a big, big (guy). You see him on TV, and you realize he’s a very strong guy. But you don't realize the size of him until you meet him in person."
White, 23, took part in batting practice — another typical first-round perk — before heading out to begin his professional career at Short-A Everett, which is playing this weekend at Tri-City (Padres) in Pasco.
"It was a surreal experience," White said. "I can’t put into words how much it meant to me and my family to be out there."
The Mariners selected White with the 17th overall pick on June 12 in the MLB Draft and reached agreement on a signing bonus of $3.125 million in time for him to attend this week’s minicamp for draftees in Peoria, Ariz.
"The second-best runner in our system might be our new first baseman," Dipoto said. "It’s a really unique skill set. The consensus is, after leaving the minicamp, that he’s among the best athletes, if not the best athlete, in our system."
White’s resume at Kentucky profiled him as a plus defensive player and a plus runner with a line-drive swing that uses the entire field. His power is an evolving tool, but the Mariners believe it will come as he adds weight to his 6-foot-3 frame.
"He’s an athlete from a cold-weather state who went to the (Southeastern Conference) and started as a freshman," scouting director Scott Hunter said. "You look at every year he’s played, he’s gotten better.
"He could put on another 15-20 pounds. He is not a finished product by any means. He’s an athlete with a body that could add more strength, more size and more power."
White wryly noted his power in noting that he found Safeco Field to be "beautiful" but "huge" before adding: "I found that out in BP as well. The ball, with my power right now, is not going too many places."
Even so, he doesn’t appeared too concerned.
"It’s something that I’d like to have, have more of," he admitted. "I think everyone would. But what we really talked about is sticking to what you do and play to your strengths.
"If I’m (concentrating) on driving the ball in the middle of the field, and finding the barrel, it’s going to take care of itself."
White played outfield occasionally in the past, but the Mariners plan to keep him at first base.
"He can throw, and he can throw accurately," Dipoto said. "Right now, it’s Gold Glove-quality defense. It’s unique in that he’s a left-hand throw, right-hand hit, but it’s gap to gap.
"We were trying to comp him out. It’s somewhere on the family tree of John Olerud and Brandon Belt. It’s something in that genre. And in a foot race, there’s a pretty good chance he’s at third when they’re rounding first."
***Hi-A Modesto outfielder Kyle Lewis, the club’s top pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, will begin a rehab assignment at Peoria in the Arizona Rookie League after suffering a bruised right knee on June 12 when he slammed into the outfield wall.
Lewis missed nearly 11 months after undergoing major surgery last July on the same knee after suffering an injury on a play at the plate.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners