Will experience help this rising Crew outfielder?

January 27th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Garrett Mitchell was 12 or 13 years old when he got his first good look at Max Scherzer. Last year, Mitchell got another, and it was just one of the many ways in which his season-ending stint with the Brewers could help propel the outfield prospect into 2023.

Mitchell, who gave the Brewers a jolt of energy and production down the stretch last year, struck out in both of his at-bats against Scherzer in the Brewers’ 7-2 loss to the Mets on Sept. 19, but he was hardly alone. Scherzer returned from the injured list that day with six perfect innings in a victory that clinched New York’s first postseason berth since 2016, and the experience had Mitchell thinking back to a childhood road trip with his mother, Shannon Van Dyke, that included a tour of Wrigley Field and a game at Detroit’s Comerica Park when Scherzer was pitching for the Tigers.

“I saw Max throw from the second or third row behind home plate,” Mitchell said. “It’s weird to see someone who you watched growing up for such a long time, and then to be able to face him. It’s such a cool experience. I feel like especially now in baseball, you have so many guys breaking into the league so young, even way younger than me, that they’re able to face guys like that. 

“It’s definitely cool. Definitely a humbling experience, too.”

Being occasionally humbled was part of Mitchell’s experience last season, when he held his own to the tune of an .832 OPS in 68 plate appearances in August and September. As the first of the Brewers’ current wave of top prospects to get extended time in the Major Leagues – a list that should grow this season as Sal Frelick, Brice Turang and others approach their own debuts – Mitchell is hoping to build a foundation for future success.

Besides Scherzer, Mitchell logged at-bats against NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara of the Marlins (collecting two hits including a double), D-backs ace Zac Gallen (a homer) and other good arms he’ll see again like Miles Mikolas of the Cardinals and Jameson Taillon, who has since signed with the Cubs. 

Asked along the way where his headspace was at, Mitchell said, “I wouldn’t say full, but it’s definitely different being in the box versus watching it from a television or watching through a report.”

He had his moments. When Mitchell delivered his first career walk-off hit against the Yankees on Sept. 16, he was the first Brewers rookie with a walk-off RBI since Keston Hiura in 2019. That was just a few days after Mitchell made a game-saving catch against the Reds.

All the while, the Brewers were chasing a postseason berth. Ultimately, they fell short.

“We put him in the middle of really big games, and you have to just keep learning and you have to keep using every experience to make you a little bit better, to take something from it,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said of Mitchell. “Then you just have to stay in the fight.” 

When he was in Milwaukee earlier this month for the Brewers’ “Hot Stove & Cold Brews” event, Mitchell said he would love to be in center field on Opening Day at Wrigley Field.

“Obviously, that’s the goal,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, work my butt off and see what happens. I still have something to prove. I had a good last month of the year. But it’s a new year. You have to flip the page and move forward.”