Pittsburgh Pirates Prospects: Outfielder Off to a Strong Start

Altoona's Cal Mitchell (5) reacts to a call as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies lost to the Altoona Curve, 5-0, at the Ponies home opener on Tuesday, May 11, 2021.
Altoona's Cal Mitchell (5) reacts to a call as the Binghamton Rumble Ponies lost to the Altoona Curve, 5-0, at the Ponies home opener on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. /

Outfield prospect Cal Mitchell is off to a strong start at Triple-A Indianapolis and is putting himself in position to debut with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season

When people think about the deep and talented farm system the Pittsburgh Pirates have one position that can often times be overlooked is the outfield. While the Pirates have plenty of outfield options in their minor league system there is not much in the way of top end prospect talent in the outfield.

One Pirate prospects that once appeared to be on his way to becoming a highly touted outfield prospect is Cal Mitchell.  Entering the 2019 season Baseball Prospectus ranked Mitchell as the 97th best prospect in baseball and he was on the cusp of being ranked as a top 100 prospect by other publications as well.

However, the 2019 season is where things started to go sideways for Mitchell. In 493 plate appearances across 118 games played at the High-A level he hit for a .251/.304/.406 slash line to go with a 110 wRC+. By no means are these poor numbers but they’re also not what you would like to see from a borderline top 100 prospect.

After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season Mitchell became a bit of a forgotten man in the Pittsburgh Pirates farm system. 2021 saw Mitchell accumulate 440 PAs in 115 games played. He played 108 of these games with the Double-A Altoona Curve and the other 7 with Triple-A Indianapolis. Mitchell hit for a .279/.328/.423 slash line with a 104 wRC+ between the two levels. Again, not terrible numbers but also not numbers that scream top prospect.

This past offseason the Pittsburgh Pirates left Mitchell off the 40-man roster. Had there been a Rule 5 Draft he would have been exposed to the draft. However, with the Rule 5 Draft canceled the Pirates were able to retain Mitchell, with him beginning the season back at Triple-A Indianapolis.

Through his first 38 PAs of the season Mitchell has been as good as any hitter for the Indians. The left-handed hitter has hit for a .371/.395/.743 slash line to go with a 192 wRC+. He has hit a team leading 3 home runs, mixing in 4 doubles to collect extra bases at an 18.4% rate.

Mitchell is also off to a strong start with his strikeout rate. He is currently striking out at just a 15.8% rate. This continues a trend he started last season of reducing the swing-and-miss, as he struck out at just a 17.0% clip last season.

The former 50th overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft, Mitchell is still just 23-years-old. He is still a young player who could make growths at the plate and this new found offensive success could be a sign of him turning a corner.

Mitchell also has the ability to play all three outfield positions, including being a plus defender in left and right field. At worst, Mitchell still appears to have the ceiling of being a really good fourth outfielder in the majors.

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That is not to say a fourth outfielder is Mitchell’s ceiling. He could still prove to be an every day caliber player for a MLB club. With the way Mitchell is playing early in the season for Indianapolis he could be putting himself in line for a promotion to the majors whenever the Pirates inevitable need outfield help. Mitchell is also re-establishing himself as a prospect to watch in the Pirate minor league system.