Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
A few years ago, Jared Mitchell was all over the radar. He was a member of national championship teams at LSU in both football and baseball and in June 2009, the Chicago White Sox selected him in the first round of the amateur draft. He was rated as the top prospect in the White Sox system in 2010 by Baseball America and seemed destined to move quickly through the system on the way to a long career in centerfield in Chicago.
However, things have not been easy for Mitchell as a professional. After a respectable showing in Low Class-A in his first pro season (.296/.417/.435 in 115 at-bats), he suffered a terrible ankle injury the following spring and missed the entire 2010 campaign. Since, Mitchell has really struggled to hit for average, topping out at .240 with Double-A Birmingham in 2012, and 2013 was a disaster. A major reason for Mitchell’s troubles is that he strikes out a ton – 33.5% of his at bats since the injury, and 34.6% last season. He also battled injuries, making two separate appearances on the DL last year, and was demoted from Triple-A in April after a terrible start to the season. He finished the year with a .167/.293/.257 slash line and only 13 extra-base hits in 90 games.
While it looks on paper as if Mitchell may be going in the wrong direction, there is still plenty to be optimistic about. No one has ever doubted the natural talent he possesses: The twenty-five year old has plus-plus speed and is a great defender, despite not having a rocket arm. He also has the ability to drive the ball, as indicated by a 20.7% line drive percentage in 2013. Mitchell is a patient hitter and is not afraid to take a walk (14.3 BB% in 2013), increasing his ability to get on base. He has also shown some power and hit five home runs in only 69 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League after last season. In all, Mitchell put together a very strong performance in the AFL, hitting .304/.425/.580. The left-handed hitter even hit lefties well, collecting seven hits in 22 at-bats against southpaws. By those numbers, he appears to finally be on track for a strong offensive season.
Not much is expected of the White Sox in 2014, which could be good news for Jared Mitchell. So far this spring, Mitchell has appeared in seven games and has two hits in nine trips and has one stolen base. It looks as if Mitchell will head to Charlotte to begin the season, but he is on the 40-man roster, which means he should be in the mix for a call-up should someone go down with an injury. If Mitchell can get his bat going in Triple-A he will probably be given an opportunity to show what he can do on the south side of Chicago before the end of summer.