This past summer I was lucky enough to see many future Pittsburgh Pirates play at all levels of the farm system. One of the biggest takeaways from watching all these games was that the Pirates have a lot of talented players competing for just three spots in the outfield or possibly only two due to the athletic ability it takes to man the center field position at PNC. One such player that is seen by most as being toward the top of this group is Pirates current #5 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Cal Mitchell. He is a raw power lefty; currently manning right field for the Bradenton Marauders.
Mitchell was drafted in the 2nd Round in the MLB June Amateur Draft out of baseball powerhouse Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, California. The Broncos are a staple in the top 50 of high school teams in the United States and have produced current MLB players; such as Cole Hamels of the Atlanta Braves and the Pirates own, Trevor Williams.
After being drafted 50th overall, Mitchell began his professional career with the GCL Pirates in the Rookie Level of the Minor Leagues. He started out with a mediocre short season at this level. In 43 games and 185 plate appearances the 18 year old hit .245 with 2 HRs and 20 RBIs. After an off-season to prepare for his first full year of baseball Mitchell came into his own for the Pirates then Low A affiliate, West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League.
He earned a spot on the SAL All-Star Team and started to show off the bat that scouts saw from in his high school days. Cal slashed .280/.344/.427 with 10 HRs and a total of 42 extra base hits. After a season like this it was an easy decision for the Pirates to promote Mitchell to the High A Bradenton Marauder of the Florida State League. This is where I had my first opportunity to see him play this past year. The power that Mitchell displayed during his time in West Virginia stuck around as hit 15 HRs in the pitcher-friendly league. However, his average dropped down to .251 as he found himself slumping in the middle of the season; only hitting .184 in the month of June.
Due to his mid-season struggles and his lack of defensive flexibility; he has a below-average arm and average speed, it is most likely that Mitchell starts his season in Bradenton. However, it is possible that he starts the season in AA with the Altoona Curve, depending on the promotions that happen in front of him. I could see at least two of the outfielders from the Curve last year, Jared Oliva and either Chris Sharpe or Bligh Madrid start their seasons in AAA with the Indianapolis Indians. His main competition for this promotion is Pittsburgh Pirates #4 Prospect, Travis Swaggerty.
For Cal Mitchell, age is on his side as he will have just turned 21 as the season begins, so it would not be detrimental to his progress to start the season at the same level and try to get the bat going again. If this happens it will be much easier to imagine Cal Mitchell in an a Curve uniform, manning right field, underneath the roller coaster at People’s Natural Gas Field by the end of next season.