'This kid is different': Royals ink top pick Mitchell

July 16th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Anne Rogers’ Royals Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

KANSAS CITY -- Last August, Blake Mitchell was at Kauffman Stadium participating in the Under-Armour All-American Game, taking home MVP honors after tallying five RBIs.

Nearly a year later, he was back at The K. This time he was signing a contract with the Royals, who drafted him No. 8 overall in the 2023 MLB Draft last week.

“I thought about being [at] a big league park, but to be here in Kansas City is special,” Mitchell said. “It’s something I’ve thought about for a couple months, knowing they had interest in me. For that dream to come true means so much.”

The Royals introduced Mitchell on Saturday morning after inking their first-round Draft pick to a professional contract. Financials were not announced by the club, but a source told MLB.com that Mitchell signed for $4.9 million, well under the No. 8 pick slot value of $5,980,100.

The Royals can use that extra $1 million when signing their other Draft picks, most of whom are on their way to Arizona to make it official and begin minicamp. The expectation is the Royals will sign most of their ‘23 selections, although 19th-rounder Donovan LaSalle out of Barbe (La.) High School and 20th-rounder Blake Wilson out of Santa Margarita (Calif.) HS will likely honor their college commitments to Oklahoma State and Washington, respectively.

In Mitchell, the Royals got what was widely considered the best prep catcher in the Draft, a lefty who hits for average and power and possesses a plus-plus arm -- one that reached 97 mph on the mound for Sinton (Texas) High School and the U.S. junior team. He led Sinton to the Texas 4-A state title as a junior and was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year in both 2022 and ‘23.

“I’ve done three territories, including California and Texas, and he’s by far the most advanced high school guy that I’ve ever signed,” South Texas area scout Josh Hallgren said. “He’s so calm at a young age, he’s faced really good competition in Texas, and people really gravitate toward him.”

Mitchell hit .474 with 14 doubles, six homers, 35 stolen bases and 41 RBIs this season for Sinton, drawing 51 walks to just eight strikeouts. He’s lauded for his patient eye, especially in big situations. The Royals began following him intensely after his sophomore season and had a scout or official at nearly every game his senior season. They saw Mitchell against average competition and high-level competition, in regular season games and in playoff games.

His approach stayed the same, regardless.

“You watch for the same approach and same rhythm no matter who or what he’s playing for,” Hallgren said. “He doesn’t get rattled. I can’t say that for a lot of college guys. … There’s not really one game that sticks out because when I think back, it’s the consistency that stands out. He never takes at-bats off. He’s not afraid to walk.

“And whenever he gets a chance to unleash, he’s able to do it. Once you put him with Drew Saylor and our development team, this kid is going to be able to take off.”

Mitchell, who throws right-handed, started hitting lefty when he was three years old. Just like golfer Phil Mickelson learned how to swing a golf club left-handed by mirroring his dad’s right-handed swing, Mitchell mirrored his dad’s baseball swing when he was young. Kevin Mitchell would set up two tees in the family’s backyard and swing right-handed, while Blake faced him and swung as a lefty.

Kevin introduced Blake to catching when he was six. And they never looked back.

“He just loved it,” Kevin said. “He liked looking at the field a different way, and he just took off with it.”

How long it takes Mitchell to take off with the Royals remains to be seen. The first step is heading to Arizona. And the hope is one day soon, he’ll be back at The K. Not as a high school player, not as a recent Draftee -- but as a big leaguer.

“I understand the stigma attached to [drafting a high school catcher in the first round], but this kid is different,” scouting director Danny Ontiveros said. “... I know he’s going to do big things, and the city is going to love this kid."