Cal Mitchell is a former second-round pick by the Bucs. Going into 2022, there was some potential that he could take over a semi-regular role in the outfield and as a designated hitter. Although he didn’t make the greatest first impression, he made significant improvements down the line that could help him in the long run.
Mitchell split his time almost evenly between Triple-A and the big leagues. The outfielder was a .339/.391/.547 batter with a 146 wRC+ at Indy. He walked at a below-average 6.5% rate but also only K’d in 14.6% of his plate appearances. Mitchell hit for good power with an isolated slugging percentage of just over .200 at .202.
But the young outfielder posted a much worse .226/.286/.349 triple-slash and 79 wRC+ with the major league team. Although he upped his walk rate to 7.8%, his strikeout rate also increased to 22.4%. He also didn’t hit for much power with a .123 ISO. But after being sent down to Triple-A in early August and returning in early September, Mitchell started to turn things around.
Through his last 86 plate appearances, Mitchell batted .267/.367/.373 with a .329 wOBA and 129 wRC+. Cal upped his BB% from just 4.8% to 12.8% while cutting the strikeouts down to just 18.6%. Most of his plate discipline numbers were above average in this late-season stretch. Keep in mind that it wasn’t even 100 plate appearances, but the improvements were undeniable.
Where Mitchell still needs to improve is with the defense. He had -4 defensive runs saved and -4 outs above average in right field last season. Mitchell was never known for his glove, but he definitely cost the Pirates potential out opportunities with his defense. The Pirates could utilize him more in left field and designated hitter to hide his defense.
A couple of things don’t make Mitchell an obvious candidate for promotion. The first one is similar to Swaggerty, that being playing time. Mitchell could get regular playing time at Triple-A or 6-8 plate appearances a week in the major leagues. The second is he hasn’t gotten off to a great start in 2023. Mitchell only has a .567 OPS and 44 wRC+. Sure, it’s only been 83 plate appearances, but it’s a poor start nonetheless. The only major advantage he has is the fact the Pirates wouldn’t need to make room on the 40-man for him.