With the eighth overall pick in the 2023 draft, the Royals selected high school catcher Blake Mitchell out of Sinton High School in Texas. Mitchell is a two-way player who some feel would have been drafted early as a pitcher, but will likely begin his pro career behind the plate. He brings a smooth left-handed bat with 25+ home run potential, although he also brings risk as a prep hitter who will still need development.
In pre-draft rankings, Mitchell was rated #14 by MLB Pipeline, #15 by Baseball America, #22 by Keith Law of The Athletic, and #29 by Kiley McDaniel of ESPN. He stands with a big frame at 6’1’’ and over 200 pounds as a high school senior and brings a “strong understanding of the strike zone, though his pure bat-to-ball skills need work”, according to Baseball America. He is not a free swinger like many prep hitters, and does show some selectivity and an “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.”
It may seem curious for the Royals to draft a catcher considering they have eight-time All-Star Salvador Perez, promising young hitter MJ Melendez, and a promising catching prospect in Carter Jensen. But by the time Mitchell is ready for the big leagues, Salvy will be in the twilight of his career. Mitchell could also move to another position - some feel he may end up in right field. Many players drafted at catcher end up moving to other positions - Dale Murphy, Craig Biggio, Paul Konerko, and Joey Votto, for example.
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 did pass over Virginia catcher Kyle Teel, who one of the best players available on many pre-draft rankings.
Mitchell may turn out to be an underslot deal, which would allow the Royals to use more of their $12.3 million bonus pool to select talented players later in the draft.
With the 8th pick in the #MLBDraft the @Royals select @SHS_PirateBball’s @mitchellblake25. Congratulations! Highest high school selection from the Coastal Bend since @CHawkins10 at 13 in 2012. #KRIS6Sports pic.twitter.com/YPg7zqw0GH— Larissa Liska (@LarissaLiska) July 10, 2023
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