Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman's continuing series of stories profiling some top KC Royals prospects. Up today is catcher Blake Mitchell.
Only a year ago, Blake Mitchell was a Texas prep catcher closing in on graduation from Sinton High School. Baseball is big in the Lone Star State and Mitchell was big in baseball — he was the previous season's Gatorade Texas Baseball Player of the Year, an award he'd win again as a senior, and had established himself as a closely watched and studied major league prospect. He was also a prominent blip on the radar screen of the KC Royals.
Now, as he prepares for the coming season, Mitchell is a multi-millionaire. Perhaps because he had no college experience, he was still on the board when Kansas City went on the clock for the eighth overall selection in last July's amateur draft. The Royals snatched him up and soon had him signed to a contract reportedly worth $4,897,500.
Despite his first-rounder status, Mitchell's selection didn't meet with the unanimous consent of a Kansas City fanbase longing for a can't-miss first-round pick capable of fast-tracking his way to Kauffman Stadium. Instead, grumbling came quickly, with naysayers decrying the choice because high school catchers frequently miss and don't make it to the big leagues.
And some of what he did during his brief professional debut in the Arizona Complex League may not have helped. Playing only 13 times and getting only 34 at-bats. Mitchell scraped together only five hits and a paltry .147 average. Surprising numbers, perhaps, for the top Royal draft pick who MLB Pipeline ranked late in the campaign as the organization's No. 1 prospect.
Those numbers, though, don't tell the whole story.
It's far too early to pass judgment on Blake Mitchell
Anyone prepared to write Mitchell off needs to reconsider. Just 19 and without any truly meaningful professional experience behind him, he saw only 136 pitches in ACL play. Inarguably minuscule, Mitchell's data pool is simply too small from which to form long-term conclusions.
And despite getting only five hits, Mitchell posted a hot .423 OBP and encouragingly worked ACL pitchers for 17 walks; although he struck out 14 times, his 32.7 BB% suggests promising plate discipline.
Mitchell also has power, and that he hits from the left side doesn't hurt.
Predicting Blake Mitchell's 2024 season with the Kansas City organization
Still MLB Pipeline's No. 1 KC prospect, expect Mitchell to begin the season at Single-A Columbia ... unless, that is, the Royals believe a return to the ACL would be beneficial. But even if promotion to the Fireflies has to wait a bit, look for him to get to, and probably finish the campaign with, Columbia.
And to put up some pretty good numbers.