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Brewers' top pick Mitchell impressed at UCLA

@alysonfooter
June 10, 2020

Days before the 2017 Draft, a 17-year-old Garrett Mitchell had a clear view of what needed to happen in order for him to achieve his goal of playing professionally. As one of the top high school players in the country, Mitchell was well aware of his strengths. That was the

Days before the 2017 Draft, a 17-year-old Garrett Mitchell had a clear view of what needed to happen in order for him to achieve his goal of playing professionally.

As one of the top high school players in the country, Mitchell was well aware of his strengths. That was the easy part – anyone who had watched the high school star could see he was a special talent. But Mitchell, the Brewers' top pick at No. 20 overall in the 2020 Draft, also recognized the areas where he would need to improve. Three years later, his decision to postpone pro ball and further hone his skills in college ball looks like it was a good one.

"The one thing I get knocked down for the most is the ability to have a consistent swing and hit the ball for power," Mitchell said in an interview with MLB.com in 2017, days before the A's selected him in the 12th round of the Draft. "So for me, just trying to stay consistent with my swing, staying short to the ball and not getting big, and getting upward tilt on my baseball to get backspin on it and drive the ball is what I'm working on the most."

The work paid off. After starring as an outfielder for baseball powerhouse UCLA, Mitchell is now a top 20 pick. MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the No. 6 prospect in this year’s Draft class.

Mitchell is described as "toolsy," which is an alternative way of saying he does everything well. He can hit, run, field and throw, while the power potential has noticeably evolved. Mitchell hit consistently through a full season in 2019, showing plus power in batting practice that translated to games -- trends he was repeating before the shutdown this year.

"He's the best athlete we've ever had, position player-wise," UCLA head baseball coach John Savage said.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down all sports, Mitchell was putting together another elite season. The 6-foot-3, 204-pound outfielder was slashing .355/.425/.484 over 62 at-bats, numbers consistent with the first two years of his college career. In 2019, Mitchell paced the Bruins' offense, slashing .349/.418/.566 over 62 games, all starts, and earning Pac-12 All-Conference Team honors.

Over time, Savage watched Mitchell transform from a raw talent to a more complete player, one who worked tirelessly on his swing and developed plate discipline that simply comes with repetition and experience.

"He's really grown mentally. He's gotten stronger physically," Savage said. "He's just a completely different hitter than he was when he first came out of high school. It's maturity, it's discipline, it's clearly some mechanical adjustments, to just have a feel now to be a good hitter."

There's plenty to like about Mitchell's abilities. He bats left-handed and hits lefty pitchers well. In 2019, he led the Pac-12 with 12 triples, evidence he can drive the ball to the gaps. He was 18-for-22 in stolen base attempts, and his excellent speed has translated to defense, too. He's considered an above-average defender who covers a ton of ground in center field -- a premium position that can work to his advantage if he shows he can handle the job long-term.

Mitchell’s path has not come without challenges. After his sophomore year, he was selected to play for Team USA, but a leg injury thwarted that plan. His recovery prevented him from playing for the Collegiate National Team, and his recovery extended through last fall. But his stock didn't fall with scouts, who were still impressed with what Mitchell showed in batting practice and during the games he played in this spring.

Mitchell's health history has also come up as a possible issue. He was diagnosed as a child with Type 1 Diabetes, and though that could be construed as a concern for potential teams interested in drafting the outfielder, his projected positioning suggests health history is not a deterrent. To date, Mitchell’s athletic pursuits have never slowed because of the condition.

The Brewers gain a top-tier prospect developed from one of the most competitive baseball programs in the country. UCLA, which has produced All-Stars Brandon Crawford, Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, may, in time, have another to add to the list.

“I don't think there's any player in the country that possesses his skill set,” Savage said of Mitchell. “He's our strongest guy, he's our fastest guy. He's a dynamic, full-fledged athlete.

“We've had really good players, really good pitchers. But Garrett possesses the most athleticism-slash-baseball tools that we've seen. You can't help but see it right away.”

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.