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With just over a month remaining in the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers are in an interesting spot. They are the only National League team currently outside of the playoff picture that has a real chance of slipping into the bracket.
The Brewers entered Thursday 2 1/2 games back of the San Diego Padres, but they have a few things working in their favor. Foremost, the Brewers have an easier schedule. Milwaukee’s average opponent the rest of the way has a 48.8 winning percentage this season; San Diego’s, conversely, has a 55.4 winning percentage. Strength of schedule doesn’t always matter — they play the games for a reason — but the Brewers have to be happy about having what appears to be a sizable edge in that respect.
The Brewers also have to be happy about the arrival of rookie outfielder Garrett Mitchell, who is the focus of this week’s Prospect Watch. Who, exactly, is he — and how much can he help the Brewers’ playoff push? Allow us to answer.
Mitchell, now days away from celebrating his 24th birthday, was Milwaukee’s first-round pick back in 2020. Entering that draft, CBS Sports ranked him as the 11th-best prospect in the class, writing the following:
Mitchell is one of the fastest runners in the class, and he should have no problem remaining in center for the long haul. The other elements of his game are less certain. Mitchell has the kind of athleticism and angular frame that scouts dream about, and he puts on a better BP than his in-game power numbers indicate (his .151 career ISO is propped up by 15 triples, as compared to six home runs). He’s already reconfigured his swing once since high school, and a team hoping to help him unlock his star potential could task him with trying it again. Mitchell, a Type 1 diabetic, should serve as a positive role model regardless.
Mitchell has since made a quick ascent, hitting .287/.377/.426 across Double- and Triple-A this year, his second full professional season. The Brewers promoted him to the majors last week, and he had an eventful first few days in The Show. Entering Thursday, he’d batted .222/.364/.556 (155 OPS+) with a home run, five runs batted in, and a stolen base in five games. That home run, a two-run shot that tied the score in the bottom of the eighth, paved the way for a recent Brewers victory. Take a look:
GARRETT MITCHELL FIRST MLB HOME RUN ALERT!! TIE GAME IN THE 8TH!! 🚨🚨🚨 | #ThisIsMyCrew pic.twitter.com/ZC1DE6SfnR
Most of the above scouting report remains true about Mitchell. He’s a legitimate center fielder with top-notch speed who has succeeded on 17 of his 18 combined stolen-base attempts this season. The drawback with Mitchell is, also, precisely what it was back on draft day: his inability to consistently tap into his raw power. His isolated slugging in Triple-A was .123 (versus a team average of .162), and he had homered just five times in 66 minor-league games prior to his promotion.
Mitchell’s lack of power output stems in large part from his batted-ball profile. His groundball rate was flirting with 60 percent in the minors, according to FanGraphs, and he often swats the ball toward the opposite field. That can be an effective formula for someone of his handedness (he’s a lefty) and speed, since a ball deep into the hole is likely to result in an infield single for him. It does, however, limit his ceiling and diminish his chances of becoming a star.
Of course, there’s no law against players continuing to develop once they’ve reached the majors, and Lord knows that progress isn’t always linear. (Indeed, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if the Brewers tinker with his hand slot more over the coming weeks, or at least heading into next spring.) The Mitchell the Brewers are getting right now will likely contribute enough in terms of singles, hustle extra-base hits, and walks to be a net positive — especially considering the impact he’ll make on the basepaths and on the defensive side.
Besides, have you seen the Brewers’ center-field production this season? Milwaukee ranks 23rd in Wins Above Replacement from that position, more than a half win behind any other team competing for a playoff spot. Lorenzo Cain was responsible for some of the damage, but the Brewers have since relied upon a combination of Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis that tilts too far toward the defensive side of things. Mitchell has a chance to be an upgrade over Davis at the plate without giving it back in the field, suggesting the Brewers should be better in center heading forward.
And hey, should the Brewers get tired of their new platoon arrangement and decide they want to upgrade even more, then they could always call up another former first-round pick: Sal Frelick.
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MLB Prospect Watch: Garrett Mitchell, a 2020 first-round pick, could be key part of Brewers' playoff push – CBS Sports