On a Charleston Riverdogs team with Dante Bichette, Cito Culver, Mason Williams, Jose Campos, Angelo Gumbs, Tyler Austin, and Gary Sanchez, its easy for a solid prospect to get lost below the headlines. But the title of best opening weekend goes to none of them. Instead, Bryan Mitchell gave Yankee fans something to get very excited about.
Mitchell pitched 6 innings in his debut start. He allowed no runs on just one hit and one walk, with six strikeouts. He is 21 years old, and has been kicking around the low levels of the Yankee farm system since being drafted in 2009. It feels like he has been around for a very long time, because he has. Mitchell has constantly pitched well enough to stay interesting, but not well enough to break out and become a top prospect.
He certainly has the tools. Mitchell throws a 92-95 mph live fastball and has a killer spike curve. He may or may not have made progress on his changeup – I haven’t seen any news about it either way. He’s also been touted as a smart player who learns well. Control has always been his problem. A Bryan Mitchell with an average-or-better walk rate would be a very dangerous pitcher. A Bryan Mitchell who manages to get all aspects of his game clicking – the secondary pitches, sustained velocity, control, etc – could be an ace.
Obviously, one start is nothing to get excited about. Although inexperienced, Mitchell is not young for Single-A. He has never pitched a full season workload (although, at the same time, we tend to forget that EST players often pitch 50+ innings before the short season leagues start. The statistics just aren’t recorded for the public), and has constantly had control problems come back to bite him. He needs to pitch very well for 2-3 months before I am ready to start talking about a breakout season.
All of that said, there’s a non-zero chance that among all of those great Charleston prospects, Bryan Mitchell becomes the best major league player. He might at present time be the worst prospect of the group, but only Gary Sanchez has a rock-solid claim on a higher ceiling than Mitchell. I think of him as the Brett Marshall of the 2009 draft class. And even if he fails as a starting pitcher, Mitchell has the kind of two-pitch power arsenal that might make him an effective short reliever.
I know that I’ll be watching his starts very closely.
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