KC Royals fans have had plenty of negative things to say about catcher Blake Mitchell since last summer. Now, MLB.com is placing him among the top 100 prospects in all of baseball.
MLB Pipeline released their 2024 preseason Top 100 Prospects list, less than a month ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. While Baltimore Orioles phenom Jackson Holliday is the unquestionable top prospect, the remaining 99 were up for grabs. Kansas City did have a lone representative on the list, with Mitchell coming in at 94th.
Mitchell, the Royals' top pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, has quite the resume before entering professional baseball. He won Gatorade Player of the Year in Texas in his junior and senior years at Sinton High School. After a strong pre-draft process, Kansas City drafted him eighth overall in 2023, an unquestionable under-slot selection. MLB.com did note that the slot savings allowed Kansas City to sign other top-30 prospects such as "Blake Wolters, Hiro Wyatt and Jared Dickey."
How did KC Royals prospect Blake Mitchell earn his ranking?
Mitchell did leave much to be desired in the stat sheet during his 13 Arizona Complex League games. He had a measly .147 batting average but walked more than he struckj out for a .423 on-base percentage. MLB.com did note that "he can be selective at the plate while he waits for the right pitch to drive too, and there’s hope that approach can help turn him into at least an average hitter over time. There are some concerns about swing-and-miss for now that deserve monitoring, especially as his professional workload increases."
Mitchell's detractors are quick to point out the poor track record of catchers drafted out of high school. While Hall of Famer Joe Mauer is the exception to the rule, MLB.com says that Mitchell has "an exciting foundation to beat the odds."
Mitchell is just one of 14 prospects on the top-10 list under the age of 20. That, plus awaiting his first full professional season, puts his MLB ETA at 2027. He has plenty of time and talent to develop in 2024 and beyond, but the Royals organization took an aggressive approach in the 2023 MLB Draft. Mitchell, at the top, is likely the face of how that class is evaluated by Royals fans. His landing in the Top 10 prospects has to be a reassuring sign, but there is plenty of work to be done.