Players yet to make their official pro debuts aren’t expected to show up in big league spring training and make people say, “Wow!”
That’s exactly what center fielder Garrett Mitchell did in spring camp. The 2020 first-rounder from UCLA, whose pro debut was postponed when the coronavirus pandemic shut down the minor leagues last year, performed in Cactus League games like a seasoned veteran.
Getting more opportunities than originally expected, playing in 18 of the Brewers’ first 22 exhibition games, the 22-year-old showed no signs of being an untested player. He batted .385 (10-for-26) with a home run, four RBIs and a .429 on-base percentage.
Not too shabby for a player who fell to No. 20 in the draft in part because of concerns about his Type 1 diabetes.
“This is just the start for him,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of the 6-foot-3, 215-pound lefthanded hitter. “The first time he puts on a uniform in front of fans, he’s playing in major league spring training games. He participated in instructional league, but this is really his first experience, and even this is a little different.”
Mitchell broke out of the chute with three hits in his first five at-bats in exhibition play and just kept going. Making his performance even more impressive, he collected five of his first eight hits against lefthanders, showing no intimidation whatsoever.
“I try to stay simple,” Mitchell said of his success against southpaws. “Stay in the (strike) zone and try to use the middle of the field in that situation. I try to keep my front shoulder closed and not to pull off.
“For me, I see lefties really well.”
Mitchell has shown why he was considered one of the most advanced college hitters in the 2020 draft. Accordingly, he’s likely headed for Low-A Carolina or High-A Wisconsin. And no one who saw him in big league camp thinks he’ll be overmatched.
“He’s a talented player,” Counsell said. “I think that’s pretty obvious. He brings a lot to the table. I think that’s what’s exciting right now.”
— Lefthander Antoine Kelly, 21, one of the top pitching prospects in the organization, had thoracic outlet syndrome surgery over the offseason and is not expected to be ready to pitch at the outset of the minor league season. Kelly was a standout at the Brewers’ alternate training site as well as instructional league.
— Catcher Jacob Nottingham, 25, recuperating from left thumb surgery late in the offseason, did not recover in time to catch in games during big league camp and is likely headed for the injured list.