The Texas Rangers currently have five picks in the 2020 MLB Draft, and while it is possible they could trade for a competitive balance pick from another team, it appears most likely they will have just their regular selections in each round. Their first pick is at #14 overall, and then they pick at #50, #87, #117, and #147.
In the run up to the draft, we will be highlight some players who are potential Ranger draft picks. Last year no one aside from Josh Jung that we wrote about was actually picked by the Rangers, as we mostly looked at prep players for their later picks, and they went college-heavy early in the draft for the first time in years. This year, the uncertainty over whether they will emphasize college players again or go back to prep players would make it hard to narrow down the list of potential prospects even in a normal year — the Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic having shut down amateur play creates even more uncertainty about potential picks.
On the plus side, the lack of games and actual new scouting going on means that there’s going to be a lot less updated information, so a write-up I do now will likely still be more or less valid a month from now.
In any case, in the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks. Today we take a look at UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell.
Garrett Mitchell is a 6’3”, 204 lb. lefthanded hitting outfielder for UCLA. Mitchell is considered to be as toolsy as they come, and was highly regarded in high school, at one point being considered a potential first round pick. A disappointing senior year resulted in him being ranked #62 on the Baseball America top 500 draft rankings for 2017, down from the top 30, where he was early on. He slid in the draft due to signability issues, and ended up getting picked by the Oakland A’s in the 14th round.
Mitchell struggled as a freshman at UCLA, slashing .280/.337/.331 in 44 games, but had a terrific 2019 season, slashing .349/.418/.566 and stealing 18 bases in 22 attempts. He got off to a good start this year, as well (.355/.425/.484) in 15 games before play was canceled.
Mitchell is a tool shed — he’s either a 70 or 80 runner, depending on who you talk to, and profiles as a plus defensive center fielder who has a big time arm. He also makes good contact at the plate, and there are reports he has 70 or 80 raw power as well. The “raw” is an important qualifier, though, as there were major questions about his swing in high school, and while he’s improved that some, there is still thought to be significant work that would need to be done to turn his raw power into game power.
Mitchell also has Type 1 diabetes, which he has managed throughout his playing career, but which is going to be a concern for teams. The combination of that medical red flag and the questions about whether he’ll be able to hit for power in the majors lead to teams dropping him on their boards, compared to where he could be.
Baseball America has Mitchell at #6 on their pre-draft top 500, saying that he’s a top 10 talent but polarizing. MLB Pipeline puts Mitchell at #6 on their board as well, while Fangraphs has Mitchell at #14 on their board. Over at ESPN, Kiley McDaniel has Mitchell at #18 on his board, noting concerns about pitch selection knock him down. Keith Law puts Mitchell at #23 on his board, due to bearishness about his power.
Keith Law has Mitchell going to the Chicago Cubs at #16 in his latest mock draft. Jonathan Mayo’s mock draft has the Boston Red Sox taking Mitchell at #17, but noting that Mitchell has been hard to slot. Kiley McDaniel’s mock draft has Mitchell going to the Cubs, but also links him to the Rangers. Mitchell goes to the Rangers in the most recent Baseball America mock draft, while the latest version of the Jim Callis mock draft has Mitchell going to the Philadelphia Phillies at #15.
What’s particularly interesting to me in looking at the mock drafts is that everyone says Mitchell is hard to peg, everyone says he’s polarizing, but everyone has him going between 14 and 17, and someone has him mocked to each of those four teams. The evaluators seem to be saying that Mitchell will drop some, but that in the middle of the first round he is too good to pass up.
The speed and defense means that Mitchell has a relatively high floor, but if the power doesn’t actualize, his upside is maybe Adam Eaton. And Adam Eaton is good — don’t get me wrong there. But Eaton is a great defensive center fielder who provides value offensively getting on base at a solid clip and stealing bases, and those guys don’t tend to make the pulse race.
The player who always comes to mind when I read about Mitchell is George Springer. Like Mitchell, Springer was a college outfielder who was considered to be perhaps the toolsiest player in the draft, but who fell out of the top ten because of concerns about his swing and his ability to utilize his power against velocity. BA had Springer at #11 on their 2011 draft board, behind, among others, Bubba Starling, Taylor Jungmann and Taylor Guerrieri. Springer went #11 to the Houston Astros, turned his tools into results, and has become a terrific player. If whatever team drafts him can figure out how to re-work his swing so that he can better utilize his raw power in game action, his best case scenario probably looks something like Springer, which would be a home run selection in the middle of the first round.