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Better know a draft prospect: Blake Mitchell

Could the Royals grab the top prep catcher in this class?

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Syndication: The Corpus Christi Caller Times Angela Piazza/Caller-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

While the Royals certainly need pitching in the organization, they’re not exactly flush with bats either. With the #8 pick in this summer’s draft, they have a chance to add an impact bat. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel pegged prep catcher Blake Mitchell to the Royals at #8 in his latest mock draft, writing that he is hearing interest from the team in the young catcher.

I’m also hearing the Royals are in on Mitchell and TCU’s Taylor. Mitchell has some interest in the top 10 but also might fall into the early 20s, so this could be a solid cut to set up later picks akin to the Frank Mozzicato deal in 2021 (although the savings wouldn’t be quite that high).

Mitchell is a two-way player for Sinton High School in Texas who throws in the mid-90s as a pitcher, but will likely be drafted as a catcher. He brings a big frame and a left-handed bat with power potential, although like most prep hitters, he is a bit raw. Here’s how Baseball America describes his offense.

He has solid rhythm in the batter’s box, and a generally strong understanding of the strike zone, though his pure bat-to-ball skills need work. It’s not surprising for Mitchell to swing-and-miss against all pitch types and he’ll need to do a better job making contact in order to tap into his plus raw power.

Keith Law agrees he is the best high school catcher in the draft, writing “His hands work well at the plate and he has the finish to his swing to drive the ball in the air, with 25-homer potential if he hits enough to get to it,” but also notes his trouble with “quality stuff.”

Mitchell isn’t a free swinger, and he seems to exemplify the hitting approach espoused by Royals hitting coach Alec Zumwalt. As MLB Pipeline writes, Mitchell “shows the aptitude to work counts in search of pitches he can drive and attacks them with a left-handed stroke with loft that produces pop to all fields.” Mitchell is ranked #14 by MLB Pipeline, #15 by Baseball America, and #22 by Keith Law.

Some fans may question drafting a high school catcher in an organization that already has seven-time All-Star Salvador Perez, promising young hitter MJ Melendez, and a promising catching prospect in Carter Jensen. But the draft is not about selecting for positional need, since so many prospects don’t pan out (Jensen is still in A-ball!) and many players drafted at catcher end up moving to other positions - Dale Murphy, Craig Biggio, Paul Konerko, and Joey Votto, for example.

But drafting high school catchers is one of the riskiest strategies. From 2010 to 2019, fourteen catcher were selected out of high school in the first round, and five have reached the big leagues, two of which have become starters - Bo Naylor of the Guardians and Tyler Stephenson of the Reds. By comparison, fourteen college catchers were selected in the first round in that same time, and twelve have reached the big leagues, including All-Stars Adley Rutschman, Yasmani Grandal, Kyle Schwarber (who moved to the outfield), and starters Shea Langeliers, Mike Zunino, and Matt Thaiss.

The Royals do have a $12.3 million bonus pool, the ninth-largest in the draft, so perhaps they could take Mitchell underslot to grab a high-upside talent later on. But it sounds like his bat brings some risk, so they will need to feel very confident in their minor league hitting development program to take on a prep bat so high.