For some reason, the Chicago White Sox just keep drafting players that are considered more “athletes” than they are baseball players. In 2009, the White Sox drafted two-sport star Jared Mitchell out of LSU. It was a high risk/high reward-type of pick.
If he could take his natural athletic ability and add in some baseball skills he could be one of the top outfielders in the league. The problem is that hitting a baseball is not the easiest task to perform in sports, considering you are doing a good job if you successfully get a hit three out of 10 times. Even the most gifted athlete can have trouble hitting a baseball thrown from a professional pitcher.
In his first action in 2009, Mitchell was able to show that maybe he did possess some real baseball skills. In 115 at-bats at class A ball, he managed to hit .296 with 12 extra base hits and five stolen bases. The problem was that he also struck out 40 times over that span.
Going into the 2010 season, Baseball America had Mitchell ranked as the 55th-best prospect in the minors. Then one of the worst things that could happen to an athlete happened to Mitchell, he was injured and needed to undergo surgery. He had torn a tendon on the inside of his left ankle and missed the 2010 season, his first full season with the organization.
In 2011 expectations were not as high, and Mitchell responded with a below average return. In A+ ball he only managed to hit .222 with 176 strikeouts in 459 at-bats. Another worrisome stat was that he only stole 14 bases the entire year. There were still a few flashes of hope for Mitchell, and the White Sox organization needs to pray that he can turn it around.
How can he affect the franchise?
Right now the White Sox major league roster and prospects are littered with players with high expectations that they have not met. Looking at Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Brent Morel, Tyler Flowers, Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo to some degree, you have to be skeptical about Mitchell’s chances to live up to his past hype. Now all of these players are young, and some have not played long enough to count them as bust just yet, but so far, not so great.
If Mitchell can change this trend that the White Sox have been on, maybe he can change the whole feel of the team. One young player playing great baseball could help motivate others and get them going as well. Players like Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin (if they are around) will be rejuvenated by the young team around them and most certainly the energy brought from Mitchell.
If all of these young players can come together as a whole and really perform to their abilities, I could certainly see the White Sox being the favorite to win the Central for many years to come.
Mitchell regains his quickness next year and starts tearing up the base paths. He also starts using that speed combined with an improvement in his outfield instincts and becomes a threat on defense. He reaches the major leagues by the end of 2014 and locks down the starting job as Rios is pushed out the door. His power translates to about 15 home runs a year and the team leader in doubles. He also adds in 30-plus stolen bases a year.
Mitchell never regains the one thing that allowed him to get drafted 23rd overall in 2009: his speed. Without his speed he is never able to impress with his batting. He makes a couple of stops in the majors as a fourth outfielder but never becomes a regular.