Pittsburgh Pirates: Cal Mitchell Earning a MLB Promotion
By Noah Wright
The Pittsburgh Pirates need to promote red hot outfield prospect Calvin Mitchell to help the desprate corner outfield situation.
The biggest hole on the Pittsburgh Pirates roster is the outfield. Bryan Reynolds has operated in center field with Ben Gamel and Jake Marisnick platooning in one of the corner outfield spots. Gamel hit righties well in 2021 with a .777 OPS, .341 wOBA, and 113 wRC+. Meanwhile Marisnick batted for a .732 OPS, .316 wOBA, and 96 wRC+ vs LHP. Both had a sub-70 wRC+ against same-handed pitching in 2021, so platooning them makes sense.
But the last outfield spot has been used as musical chairs for Cole Tucker and Hoy Park. Tucker has always graded out as a below-average outfielder, and Park has made somewhat routine plays an adventure this year. But both have a wRC+ below 50 at the time of writing this. The Pirates need a natural outfielder to pair with Reynolds, Gamel, and Marisnick, and Calvin Mitchell is almost demanding a call-up by May.
Mitchell didn’t have the best of seasons in 2021. He was still roughly league average, batting .279/.328/.432. Although he only struck out in 17% of his 440 plate appearances, he only walked at a 5.5% pace. His walk rate was the lowest among Pirates minor leaguers with at least 300 plate appearances. But overall, he still had a .329 wOBA and 104 wRC+. He didn’t have bad numbers, but nothing that stands out.
But this year, Mitchell is off to a blazing hot start to the season. He’s only had 38 plate appearances but 13 hits. Seven of those hits have gone for extra bases with four doubles and three long balls. He still only has two walks, but he still isn’t striking out much on the plus side. He has six K’s throughout this young campaign.
Mitchell has reduced his ground ball rate from 43.1% to only 36.7%. However, the giant stride is his ability to hit line drives. Last year, he had an awful 12.8% line drive rate but has a healthy 26.7% this year. He also has an identical fly ball rate to his ground ball rate. To put it simply, he’s hitting the most productive kind of batted ball over 10% more often compared to last year, at least so far in this early season.
Tucker and Park have been massive defensive and offensive liabilities this year. Although Mitchell may not be considered a super rangy outfielder, he’s considered an average defender with the chance to be above average. Mitchell also doesn’t have a very high offensive bar to surpass. Tucker has a 23 wRC+ while Park has a 30 wRC+. It’s not as if the Pirates couldn’t create roster room for him either.
Tucker can only be optioned one more year before having to go through waivers if the Pirates recall him and send him back down. But both Hoy Park and Kevin Newman can be optioned for three more years. So even if the Pirates want to promote Mitchell at the service time deadline, along with Oneil Cruz, they have ways to make room on the roster.
The Pittsburgh Pirates desperately need a real outfielder to go with Reynolds, Gamel, and Marisnick. Tucker and Park are infielders essentially playing out of position, and it shows with their defensive work in the grass. At the very least, Mitchell deserves to be considered for a promotion when the service time deadline passes.