Drafting a high school catcher in the first round is generally considered a risk because of the high attrition rate at the position.
Blake Mitchell is determined to overcome those odds.
The Royals drafted the powerful, lefthanded-hitting catcher eighth overall last year out of Sinton (Texas) High. They believe Mitchell has what it takes to exceed expectations.
“He’s extremely gifted and talented,” Royals farm director/field coordinator Mitch Maier said. “The mental side and the preparation and the discipline at a young age have been really impressive, (just) to watch the way he goes about his work as a professional.”
Mitchell has steadily improved since first reporting to the Royals’ Arizona complex last July. In a 13-game pro debut in the Arizona Complex League he hit .147/.423/.177 with 17 walks and 14 strikeouts.
At the Royals’ fall instructional league program, Mitchell showed more ease of operation at the plate and began tapping into his raw power.
Mitchell spent his offseason working both at the Royals complex and at the Dynamic Sports Training facility in Tomball, Texas. Dynamic uses Proline Velocity balls, which are similar to what the Royals use for hitter training at their facilities.
Mitchell took great strides with his defense in his first six months as a pro, citing the fact that he was working daily on his catching instead of the less frequent he got in high school. He especially takes pride in how he connects with pitchers, a key component in the development of a young catcher.
“I just tried to get as close to (the pitchers) as possible,” Mitchell said, “try to get a personal relationship with them, and just earn their trust (so) they can throw whatever pitch at any count.”
The Royals believe that Mitchell will be ready for the challenge of breaking camp with Low-A Columbia.
“He’s in a really good spot offensively, defensively and physically as he enters spring,” Maier said.