Pittsburgh Pirates: Cal Mitchell Could be a 4th Outfielder Option

(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Pirates need outfield depth, which was shown last year.  The good news is they have some outfielders on the way.

In the 2017 Major League Baseball Draft, the Pittsburgh Pirates used 2 of their top 4 selections on prep outfielders.  The first was Cal Mitchell, who the team selected 50th overall.  The outfielder selected was Connor Uselton at #72 overall.  Of the two I was higher on Uselton, but that was quickly proven wrong.

Since the 2017 Draft, Cal Mitchell has quickly proven why the team selected him in front of Uselton. Uselton battled injuries early in his career which definitely put him behind from the start.  He was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates Organization in June of 2020.  He only appeared in a total of 45 total games during his time with the Organization.

Mitchell has been the opposite. When he was drafted he was very much considered to be a more raw player than Uselton.  However, Mitchell has slowly progressed into a potential Big League outfielder.  He has had ups and downs throughout his career, but this past year was definitely a positive one for Mitchell.

Cal Mitchell posted slightly above league average numbers at Double-A Altoona last season. In 419 plate appearances, Mitchell batted .280/.330/.429 with a .332 wOBA, and 106 wRC+. Mitchell did have a dozen home runs, albeit with an isolated slugging percentage of just .149. Walks weren’t the outfield prospect’s strong suit. He only drew ball four 5.7% of the time, but avoiding K’s was his strong suit. He only went down on strike three 16.9% of the time.

While he didn’t display much power, he has the potential for more. FanGraphs sees both his game and raw power as 50-grade items. He’s about an average fielder with an arm that can play in either outfield corner. The only tool that plays noticeably below average is his speed, but that was always expected with Mitchell.

It will be interesting to see what the future may hold for the 22-year-old.  The team opted to not add him to their 40-man roster, which will leave him exposed for the eventual Rule V Draft.  Being a corner-first outfielder with very limited experience above Double-A is not a strong candidate to be selected.

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This could be a good thing for the 22-year-old. If he stays with the Bucs he could have an outside chance of being a bench outfield bat at some point in 2022. The biggest question will be whether or not Mitchell can find that consistent power to eventually earn an everyday job.  With that being said, Mitchell projects to start the year in Triple-A.