MLB Prospect Watch: Garrett Mitchell, a 2020 first-round pick, could be key part of Brewers’ playoff push

With just over a month left in the regular season, the Milwaukee Brewers are in an interesting position. They are currently the only National League team with a real shot at making the playoffs.

The Brewers trail the San Diego Padres in 2 1/2 on Thursday, but they have something in their favor. Best of all, brewers have an easier schedule. Milwaukee’s average opponent for the remainder of the season has a 48.8 winning percentage; by contrast, San Diego’s is 55.4. The intensity of the schedule doesn’t always matter — they’re playing for a reason — but the Brewers must be happy to have a sizable advantage here.

The Brewers must also be delighted with the arrival of rookie outfielder Garrett Mitchell, who is the focus of this week’s Outlook Watch. Who the hell is he — and to what extent can he help the Brewers make the playoffs? Please allow us to answer.

Mitchell is now days away from celebrating his 24th birthday as Milwaukee’s 2020 first-round pick. Going into that draft, CBS Sports named him the 11th best prospect in the class, writing:

Mitchell is one of the fastest runners in the class and should have no problem staying at center for long. Other elements of his game are less certain. Mitchell has the athleticism and angular physique that scouts can only dream of, and his BP is better than his in-game strength numbers suggest (his .151 career ISO is backed by 15 3-pointers versus 6 3-pointers). home runs compared to that). He has reconfigured his swing once since high school, and a team looking to help him unleash his star potential might ask him to try again. Mitchell is a type 1 diabetic and should be a positive role model anyway.

Mitchell has risen rapidly since then, hitting 0.287/0.377/0.426 in double-A and triple-A in his second full professional season this year. The Brewers promoted him to a major last week, and he had a fulfilling first few days on The Show. Heading into Thursday, he’s hitting .222/.364/.556 (155 OPS+) homers, five at-bats and stolen bases in five games. That homer, two-run tie in the bottom of the eighth inning paved the way for the most recent Blues victory. Take a look at:

Much of the scouting report above about Mitchell is true. He’s a legitimate center fielder with top-notch speed and has made 17 of his 18 stolen base attempts this season. Mitchell’s downside is exactly what happened on draft day: He couldn’t consistently tap into his raw power. He hit a .123 singles percentage in Triple-A (versus a team average of .162) and hit just five home runs in 66 minor league games before the cut.

Much of Mitchell’s lack of power delivery stems from his hitting profile. According to FanGraphs, he has a near 60 percent earth rate in the minors, and he regularly hits the ball to the opposite field. For someone with his dominant hand (he’s left-handed) and speed, this could be a valid formula, as a ball deep into the hole is likely to result in his infield single. However, it does limit his ceiling and reduce his chances of becoming a star.

Of course, there is no law that prohibits a player from continuing to develop after entering a major, and god knows progression is not always linear. (In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Brewers tinkered with his hand slot more in the coming weeks, or at least into next spring.) The Mitchell the Brewers get now could be on the singles side. Contributing enough, rushing extra hits and walks is a net positive — especially given the impact he’ll have on base lane and defense.

Also, have you looked at the Brewers’ center lineup this season? Milwaukee is 23rd in winning percentage above the bench and more than half behind any other team vying for a playoff spot. Lorenzo Cain was responsible for some of the loss, but the Brewers have since relied on a combination of Tyrone Taylor and Jonathan Davis, who leaned too defensively. Mitchell’s opportunity to upgrade Davis without getting him back on the floor suggests the Brewers should do better at center.

Hey, if the Brewers get fed up with their new lineup and decide to move up further, they can always call on another former first-round pick: Sal Frelick.

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