Mitchell aims to ride Fall League momentum
White Sox outfield prospect showcases improved hitting in offseason
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Chicago White Sox have to be pleased with the performance of outfield prospect Jared Mitchell in this past Arizona Fall League season.
Having played in the league in 2010 following an ankle injury, this was Mitchell's second Fall League appearance. I have seen them both. I have watched Mitchell in Spring Training as well, and his performance playing for the Glendale Desert Dogs this past fall was clearly the best I have seen.
An outstanding athlete, Mitchell was a high school baseball and football star at Westgate High School in New Iberia, La. Following high school, the Minnesota Twins selected Mitchell in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing a contract, he chose to attend Louisiana State University.
At LSU, Mitchell played wide receiver on the Tigers' 2007 NCAA championship team. He was named the Most Outstanding Player when he also helped LSU win the '09 College World Series.
The White Sox signed Mitchell as their first-round selection in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft.
Mitchell is a 6-foot, 205-pound left-handed hitter and thrower, and he is No. 10 on the White Sox Top 20 Prospects list.
With collegiate experience behind him, Mitchell began his career at Class A Kannapolis in the South Atlantic League. He hit .296 in his 139 plate appearances that covered 34 games.
Mitchell has since spent three additional Minor League seasons struggling with his hitting. Including that limited first season, he has a combined batting average of .221. Mitchell has hit a total of 25 home runs, with his best homer total coming in 2012 when he hit 11. Ten of those came at Double-A Birmingham.
This past season, Mitchell hit a combined .167 at Triple-A Charlotte -- where he began the year -- and Double-A Birmingham, where his season progressed from mid-April. Mitchell's 2013 hitting struggles made his Arizona Fall League critically important.
At the age of 25, Mitchell has to show progress and advancement of his tools to continue as a viable option for the White Sox outfield. His greatest baseball tool to date has been his plus speed on the bases and in the outfield. Mitchell is a threat to steal, as he has shown with 57 stolen bases in 78 attempts in his career.
Mitchell hit .176 against right-handed hitters and .141 against lefties in 2013. He has adequate-to-good bat speed once his bat reaches the ball. After a short bobbing of his bat at his shoulder, Mitchell takes the bat through the ball fairly quickly, with slight loft in his swing. However, he is slow getting the swing going.
A long swing causes Mitchell to be tardy and swing through some pitches. He uses a short stride following a slight lift of his leg to trigger his swing, and he is best when he uses more of the center of the field and doesn't try to pull every pitch.
Mitchell does realize the value of combining a base on balls with his speed. He is becoming more selective at the plate, looking for a pitch to drive or taking a walk if it is offered.
From what I saw this past fall, improvement in Mitchell's pitch recognition allowed him to pick up the flight of the pitch sooner and helped him get the bat in motion quicker. The net result is improved contact.
Defensively, Mitchell has played mostly in center field for the White Sox. With little power to speak of, his defense and speed will be true assets, especially if he is used as a late-game defensive replacement or pinch-runner.
In many ways this fall, Mitchell reminded me of New York Yankees center fielder Mason Williams. Both left-handed hitters have to improve their offensive production. Both are good defenders with speed.
Mitchell's challenges at the plate will continue with his assignment this coming season. He has to prove that he can hit quality pitching and not take hitting woes with him to the field.
While I don't project Mitchell to gain much power, I do think he can sustain the momentum he built in Arizona.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. Follow @BerniePleskoff; on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.