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Blue Jays Draft Candidates: UCLA OF Garrett Mitchell

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Long Beach State v UCLA Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images

Name: Garrett Mitchell

School: University of California, Los Angeles

Height/Weight: 6’3”/205lbs

Bats/Throws: L/R

Prospect Rankings:

  • Fangraphs THE BOARD: 14
  • MLB Pipeline Top 200: 6
  • Baseball America Top 500: 6
  • Keith Law’s Big Board (The Athletic): 12

Garrett Mitchell was seen as a potential first round pick out of Lutheran High in Orange, California, but an uneven senior season and a firm commitment to UCLA caused him to slide to the 14th round and he opted to go to college instead of joining the A’s. He continued to struggle as a freshman, but found his groove hitting with wood bats in the Northwoods League that summer. Mitchell slashed .309/.404/.382 with about as many walks as strikeouts. That momentum carried over into his sophomore season, during which he slashed .349/.418/.566 for the Bruins and leading the entire NCAA in triples. This season, he was off to a similar start before the Pac-12 was shut down in March. For his college career, put up a respectable .327/.393/.478 line that would have improved had he been able to complete his junior season. He only managed 6 home runs in his 543 college PA, but added 24 doubles and 15 triples while stealing 28 of 37 bags.

That statistical performance is definitely strong, but not the kind of production that typically earns a player consideration for a top 5 pick. His OPS in his sophomore season was just the 18th best among full time players in the Pac-12, a full 250 points behind 2019 third overall pick Andrew Vaughn and more than 300 behind top pick Adley Rutschman. Mitchell’s case for being taken among the top 10 picks instead rests on a set of raw physical tools that might be the loudest in the class.

Mitchell is a solidly built 6’3”, 205lbs, with thick legs and broad shoulders. His size gives him at least plus raw power, with some evaluators giving it 70 grades on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has a powerful and accurate arm from the outfield. In spite of his size, he’s also a top of the scale 80 grade runner, which allows him to leg out hits that few other players could, steal bases efficiently in volume, and play plus defense in center field. In Baseball America’s survey of scouting directors, he was voted the best athlete, the second fastest, and the best outfield defender among all college position players. Mitchell is a Type 1 diabetic, which complicates his physical evaluation somewhat. He played 77 of 78 possible games for the Bruins over the past two seasons, although a leg injury limited him to batting practice as a member of the collegiate national team last summer. How much his chronic health condition should affect his evaluation, if at all, seems to be a matter of debate between teams.

At the plate, Mitchell has a short, somewhat awkward looking left-handed swing. He starts with his feet close together in an open stance and takes a big stride, but his timing looks a bit uneven and he doesn’t seem to consistently rotate his hips in a way that allows him to use his whole body efficiently to generate power. He’s so strong that he’s still able to hit balls hard even when he’s mostly swinging with his arms, but changes will be necessary to allow him to produce the home run totals his raw strength makes him capable of. Because his bat path is short and direct, he’s able to make a lot of contact. In videos from both games and batting practice, he doesn’t seem to pull balls often, instead going to the opposite field or up the middle. The of his contact looks inconsistent, and he appears to chop a lot of balls into the ground. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because as a burner running from the left-hand batter’s box he has the ability to leg out a lot of infield hits, but it limits his potential offensive impact with this swing. In this video he shows off the tools that make him so enticing, first using his speed to turn a double into a triple, then launching a ball over the fence, the bullpen, and onto the roof of the batting cages behind the stadium.

Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen notes that scouts who have followed him since high school say his swing at UCLA is noticeably smoother than it was then, and in videos from 2020 it looks better than it did in early 2019. That suggests that Mitchell has some ability to take feedback from coaches and make changes, raising the hope that pro quality instruction could unlock more potential in his bat.

Mitchell’s profile appears very risky at first glance, a talented developmental project whose swing isn’t great and whose statistical output in college wasn’t elite, but his speed and glove help that by giving him stable carrying tools. Keith Law notes that even if he’s only ever a 45 hit/ 45 game power player (a .250 with 12-15 home runs a year, roughly) in the majors, he brings enough defensive and base running value to still profile as a solid starter. If he’s able to make swing changes that unlock his raw power, his likely upside is a star speed and power center fielder in the mold of Andre Dawson or Carlos Beltran.

Rumors are that Mitchell is a divisive prospect within the industry, but if a team is comfortable with Mitchell’s medical condition and believes they know how to coach swings, he should be extremely appealing. The Jays haven’t been publicly tied to Mitchell as much as to the other guys being profiled in this series, but it’s worth noting that new scouting director Shane Farrell was the Cubs’ west coast cros-schecker during the 2018 and 2019 Pac-12 seasons, and should be extremely familiar with him. Also, the Jays have a history of scouting the Northwoods League heavily, with three picks in the first seven rounds of the past two drafts having had strong showings there (Griffin Conine and Nick Podkul in 2018 and Cam Eden in 2019). After a shortened 2020 season, that familiarity might weigh in Mitchell’s favor.