Cal Mitchell exceeded his prospect eligibility, then was sent back down to the minors. In multiple trips to the majors this year, Mitchell has a .204/.241/.336 line in 137 at-bats.
When a player exceeds his prospect eligibility, we run a Prospect Roundtable where we break down what to expect from his career moving forward.
Below is The Book on Cal Mitchell.
Mitchell is always someone who I thought would make the majors, but I was never fully sold on him having starter potential. He always showed a solid average and mid-level power, so I figured the bat would be the carrying tool. His vastly improved strikeout rate last year in Altoona gave me a bit more confidence, but when I did the top 30 ranks for the system before the season, he still ended up in the 32nd or 33rd spot. Part of that was due to the strong depth in the system, but the rest came from the question marks. He was always a bat-first guy, with slightly below average defense value and not much speed to his game, plus he has consistently had a low walk total that isn’t getting any better. He hit his way to Pittsburgh with nice numbers in Indianapolis this year, yet we are still talking about a 23-year-old with 53 games at the upper levels. I think there’s still more upside to what we have seen so far in the majors. Despite low numbers, his strikeout rate is acceptable and he’s making some hard contact as well, which are both good signs. He just got sent down, so he will get some needed Triple-A experience and should be back later in the year. I’m not 100% sure that will happen, as there are other outfield options to look at, plus the elimination of expanded rosters in September (28-man limit now) won’t allow them to give everyone looks at the same time. Mitchell’s floor now appears to be a lefty bat off of the bench or DH, and I think he can eventually flourish in that role. With some improvements in his all-around game, he could be more.
Cal Mitchell has been a frustrating prospect through much of his time in the Pirates’ system. Scouts have always loved his swing, but the results haven’t been there with any consistency. That’s not something he can afford, because his defense in the outfield corners is less than stellar, to put it mildly.
For much of his career, extreme streakiness has been a significant problem. In 2019, in high A, he had an OPS over .800 in April and July, but well under .600 in June and August. At Altoona in 2021, he hit eight home runs the first two months, but just four over the last three months. A second problem was swinging and missing, as he struck out 142 times in 2019, while walking just 32. A third problem was LHPs, as Mitchell has had substantial platoon splits.
Mitchell has made progress with all of these problems. He started on the strikeouts in 2021, fanning only about once every five and a half at-bats. This year in AAA it was once every six. He’s also had a very large reverse platoon split this year in AAA. Finally, this year in AAA he’s batted over .300 in every month, .326 overall. None of this has translated to the majors yet, but the fact that he’s steadily improved, with the biggest step forward this year, provides some reason to believe it’ll come together for him in the majors eventually.
Cal Mitchell was an interesting name to watch coming into this season for the Pirates. He’s made improvements at each level he’s played at, and starting this season in Triple-A was no different.
He’s been great with Indianapolis in 2022, and has flashed in some moments in the time he’s been given in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. There was a concern about him hitting lefties at the next level, and while the splits have been close in the majors, he hasn’t hit either side well.
One of the major questions about Mitchell was his defense, more specifically his arm. He’s made some nice plays in the outfield, but the concern about the arm has
Mitchell seems like a player that could benefit from some playing time at first, not only opening another path to playing time but to cover for his arm. He’s trending more towards a guy that might bounce back and forth the majors and minors, but the ability he’s shown to adapt and adjust as he gets comfortable at each level still might make him a bench option at some point.
I’m going to link to the article I wrote about Mitchell last week, since I would be repeating myself, and since not much has changed. In short, I think we could see Cal Mitchell emerge as an MLB starter, and his defense won’t matter at any spot, if he can consistently generate a positive launch angle with his swing. Without that, he could be a bench bat, or have the floor of an up-and-down depth option. I’d grade his floor as a 35, his ceiling as a 55, and his likely upside a 45+ at this point, based entirely on the potential of the bat.
Tim is the owner, producer, editor, and lead writer of PiratesProspects.com. He has been running Pirates Prospects since 2009, becoming the first new media reporter and outlet covering the Pirates at the MLB level in 2011 and 2012. His work can also be found in Baseball America, where he has been a contributor since 2014 and the Pirates' correspondent since 2019.