Brewers Believe They Found Great Value In Garrett Mitchell
With their first-round pick Wednesday evening, the Brewers selected UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell 20th overall.
Mitchell is as toolsy as players come. He’s a plus-plus runner, which makes him a weapon on the bases and in center field, he hit for average in a Bruins uniform, and although it hasn’t been borne out in the numbers just yet, there’s optimism that he’ll hit for power in due time.
As a sophomore in 2019, he hit .349/.418/.566 with six homers and 18 stolen bases. In the shortened 2020 season, he was hitting .355/.425/.484, but as of what turned out to be the final weekend of the season, he didn’t feel like he was fully locked in just yet.
"Truthfully, to me, I don’t even feel like I’m at a hot start,” Mitchell said at the time. "I feel like I’m still trying to figure it out at the plate, and every day is a grind. Obviously, hitting is not easy, so I just don’t feel like I’ve got the right balance in the box yet. What Coach (Rex) Peters likes to say is I’m kind of in spring training mode, where it’s still trying to figure it out and not completely all the way up to myself yet, but I’m getting there, little by little.”
Being drafted 20th represents a bit of a fall for Mitchell, who was placed as high as sixth to the Mariners in some early versions Baseball America mock drafts and came into the evening mocked 17th to the Red Sox.
Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson admitted that, just a matter of a few months ago, it didn’t look altogether likely that Mitchell would fall this far.
“Coming into the draft time frame, into the season, would I have thought he might get to 20? Maybe not,” Johnson said.
Suffice it to say Johnson was glad he was there.
“Once we knew he was there, it was a relatively easy choice for us,” he said. “We had him pretty much at the top of the board of the guys we had remaining.”
Mitchell, for his part, wasn’t hung up on that, and furthermore, is excited to have been selected by the Brewers, with whom he had a lot of familiarity, as he wore the Brewers’ uniform in the Area Code Games in high school. He also has a couple of friends from southern California in shortstop Bryce Turang and outfielder Je’Von Ward already in the system.
“I can tell you wholeheartedly that I couldn’t be more excited to be with such a great organization, and being around people that I’ve known since I was in high school and (to) feel so loved and welcome and accepted with everything that comes with me. When I say that I mean the diabetes and all that it involves,” Mitchell said. “I’m just really excited. I can’t wait to play (and) get back out on the baseball field and contribute any way that I possibly can.”
As he alluded to, Mitchell has an interesting story as someone who plays with Type 1 diabetes. Having dealt with it for 12 years now, he has managed to turn it into an advantage.
“Personally, I don’t really see it as a challenge,” Mitchell said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of people out there who do, and question whether I can play with it or what it’s going to do in the future down the road when playing, but I took it as an advantage because I know how my body works, I know what I need to do to feel it, to make it feel good going into a game, the amount of rest I need, the nutrients that makes me feel the best when going out on the field everyday. With that being said, I feel like that is an advantage because a lot of people don’t know exactly what they need or what they’re trying to feel with their body.”
The question of what Mitchell is offensively will be tied closely to what he becomes in pro baseball. Using his speed and hitting ability has made him an ideal leadoff hitter for UCLA in his career, and the lack of power numbers is perhaps a function of that not being what was asked of him in college rather than a lack of ability in that regard.
“It’s funny because people want to knock on the power numbers, and (how) they’re not there, and he has the batting practice pop, but it doesn’t translate into games, and you could ask (UCLA) Coach (John) Savage this same question, but that was never the job that he was asking of me out of being in the leadoff spot,” Mitchell said. “It was to put pressure on teams to get on base, to cause havoc and to help score runs and help win games in whatever way that I possibly could.”
If the power comes along for Mitchell, it’s easy to get excited about the type of player he can be.
“At the plate, he’s developing power. There’s a lot of power in there, actually,” Johnson said. “His raw power is really good. (It’s) still probably his area to improve, and I know he wants to get better in his ability to drive the ball for power. We think it’s in there, and I don’t want to say anything’s easy, but we do think it’s something that he can add some power, and then you’re talking about a five-tool kind of player at that point.”