Scouting Yankees Prospect #21: D.J. Mitchell

Mitchell's stuff is really underrated

The Yankees drafted right-handed pitcher D.J. Mitchell in the tenth-round of the 2008 MLB Draft out of Clemson University. Underrated because he doesn't throw quite as hard as some others, he followed up his terrific debut season of 2009 with another solid campaign last year and now he's knocking on the big league door after getting to Triple-A already.

Vital Statistics:
Name: D.J. Mitchell
Position: Pitcher
DOB: May 13, 1987
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 175
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

He went a combined 13-4 with a 4.00 ERA between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton last year to bring his career numbers to 25-11, 3.34 ERA. Battling mechanical issues earlier in the year, however, he walked a surprising 64 batters in a little more than 150 innings.

"I think ever since the All Star break things started to click," Mitchell said. "I got my command back.

"I walked a few guys [in the season finale] but for the most part I've been throwing the ball where I want to. I have been getting ahead of guys and that's the main thing I hadn't been doing."

He struggled to find his consistent release point with his fastball in the early going and it didn't help matters that his catchers weren't prepared to set themselves up properly to catch his plus-moving pitches.

"That's a key that we've worked on," Mitchell added. "Me and Nardi, and me and my catchers, we talked about that a lot, keeping the catcher over the middle of the plate so I'm not picking too much of the plate, just let me run my ball and sink, and just go from there."

Mitchell [who walked 45 batters in the first-half of the season] and his catchers made the necessary adjustments, and the end result was a combined 19 walks after the All Star break with just a 3.09 ERA.

His overall numbers and lack of a mid-90's fastball help to disguise the fact that he has impressive stuff across the board, thanks in large part to the great movement he generates with all of them.

"He has really good stuff," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "His big thing is commanding his pitches and being able to execute his game plan. The days that he was in command and could put the ball where he wanted it, he was really good.

"Sometimes he'd get too fine and miss a lot on arm side, but he's got the stuff. He's got a plus changeup, he's got a good idea how to pitch, he's a competitor, and it's just a matter or getting that consistent release point and the consistency in his delivery to be consistent from outing to outing."

Getting to the highest minor league level in just his second professional season and finishing it in such strong fashion has him as confident as ever, and he is clicking on all cylinders as he inches he way closer to the big leagues.

"I felt like I've gotten a lot better," he opined. "I feel a lot smarter, I feel like I've been pitching a lot better, my changeup has gotten tremendously better and it's my best offspeed pitch as of now.

"I'm right where I want to be. I just want to be a little more consistent with my release point and with the fastball command. I think those are my biggest keys."

Year

Team

W-L

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2010

Scranton

2-0

17.2

19

7

16

3.57

2010

Trenton

11-4

133.0

128

57

96

4.06

2009

Tampa

8-6

103.1

93

38

93

2.87

2009

Charleston

4-1

37.0

31

6

42

1.95



Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.

Fastball. Mitchell's bread and butter pitch is his wicked moving sinking two-seamer that dives down and in to right-handed batters. It ranges from 90-93 mph most days but sits mostly 91-92 mph. What makes it such a great pitch though is it is both a contact out-pitch and a true swing-and-miss pitch. He does have a four-seam fastball that he uses mostly to expand the zone on the outer-half to righties or bust lefties inside, and he can crank that one up to 94 mph at times. His fastball command, which was spotty at times in 2010, has been consistently good for one and a half of his two professional seasons.

Other Pitches. Mitchell has developed his once inconsistent slurvy breaking ball into a legitimate swing-and-miss curveball that averages 78-81 mph. Like his fastball, it dives down over the plate and it can be a devastating pitch when he has consistent command of it. The same can be said of his changeup too. It also moves exceptionally well and it became a plus pitch for him in 2010. Like his curveball, however, because it moves so much there are nights where he doesn't have the greatest command of it, but he has shown an in-game ability to find it recently.

Pitching. Like most sinker-ball pitchers, Mitchell's plan on the mound is to induce early contact and let his defense work behind him. Opposing batters have a hard time getting good wood on the ball, however, and when he gets ahead in the counts he has the knockout secondary stuff to go for the strikeout. His pitches move so much though that he's at his absolute best when the catcher's setup on the inner-half of the plate and just allow his pitches to move over the plate. His command suffers mostly when the catcher's call for, and setup for, outside pitches. Mitchell, a former outfielder in high school and earlier in his college days, is an exceptional athlete. That allows him to be one of the elite fielding pitchers and it also gives him a good pickoff move. Boasting a strong work ethic, he is also very intelligent and that makes him very coachable.

Projection. Mitchell has the goods to have a very strong big league middle of the rotation type of ceiling; stuff, movement, athleticism, and intelligence. When he's commanding all of his three pitches consistently, he can also be very efficient on the mound and pitch deep into games. The development of his secondary pitches into the plus category also gives him viable big league bullpen options as well. His game offers the organization a lot of flexibility role-wise.

ETA. 2011. Mitchell probably needs just a little more experience at the Triple-A level in 2011, but he'll be on the very short list of potential starting or relieving candidates for the Yankees. Don't rule him out for the upcoming season.

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