Royals’ top prospect jumps 11 spots on Top 100

May 16th, 2024

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 -- It was only a year ago that Blake Mitchell was leading Sinton High School through a Texas state tournament run, graduating high school and preparing for the 2023 MLB Draft.

Now last year’s No. 8 overall pick and the Royals’ top prospect is in the midst of his first full professional season playing for Single-A Columbia. And in MLB Pipeline’s refresh of its Top 100 Prospects list this week, Mitchell jumped 11 spots from No. 84 to No. 73.

“It’s definitely been a huge adjustment going from high school to where I’m at now,” Mitchell said with a laugh over the phone last week. “But whenever I’m going through any type of struggle, I can say to myself, ‘I’m living the dream right now.’ Like, I’ve always dreamed about this from when I was a little kid. And I can’t beat myself up about it whenever I go through the struggles; I’ve got to just trust myself and put in the work. I love to be out there, so I really couldn’t be happier.”

Already in his young career, Mitchell has seen the ups and downs of pro ball. Entering Thursday, Mitchell has played in 29 games (133 plate appearances) and slashed .238/.391/.419 with a 143 wRC+ this season. He’s had good weeks and tougher ones; he had just three hits in 31 at-bats since the calendar flipped to May but then put together a 3-for-5 day on Wednesday, with his fourth homer of the year.

“Learning that every pitch is a new pitch and opportunity, separating each at-bat and being able to focus on one pitch at a time has been a big learning thing for me,” Mitchell said. “Each pitch is a new opportunity to go up there and do something with it, to help the team win. So I’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities. And hopefully when pitchers make mistakes, I can punish them.”

Entering Thursday, his 18.8 walk rate ranks sixth in the Carolina League, but his 36.8% strikeout rate is 11th worst in the league. Scouts noted Mitchell’s selectiveness before the Draft and when he made his debut in the Rookie-level Arizona Complex League last year as well as fall instructs, which can work for and even sometimes against a hitter as they hunt the right pitch to drive.

Mitchell is learning all of that against some good pitchers his age and older, and he’s experiencing things he’s never been through before. That includes the pitches he’s seen and the workload of playing every day.

Generally, Mitchell’s catching schedule is every other day, with designated hitting in between. The Royals have been pleased with how he’s handled the pitching staff and catching duties, and he’s already made some highlight-reel throws showing off his 70-grade arm strength.

“I’m learning what their pitches do, how they attack hitters and in what counts they like to throw their stuff,” Mitchell said. “Each pitcher has their own plan and routine, so it’s my job to get back there and figure those things out, be on the same page and earn their trust. So hopefully they don’t have to worry or think when they’re up there; all they have to do is execute pitches.”

There’s been a ton thrown at Mitchell in his first year, and he’s trying to take it all in while improving every day. As the season settles into the summer months, he’ll look to settle in with it and find consistency. His competitiveness comes through when he talks about his game -- and he has a clear goal of winning at every level he reaches.

“I’d like to produce on offense more consistently, especially when I have those opportunities with runners in scoring position,” Mitchell said. “Doing my job, being a team player -- instead of trying to do too many things while I’m up there. So just stay within myself and do what I do.”

More around the Minor Leagues

High-A Quad Cities: RHP Brandon Johnson, the Royals’ ninth-round pick in 2022 out of Ole Miss, has allowed just four runs (three earned) in 16 2/3 innings, and those runs didn’t come until his 10th appearance for the River Bandits, when he allowed three over two innings on May 8. Johnson allowed an unearned run in 1 2/3 innings on Tuesday with a strikeout and two walks, but the 24-year-old has been extremely impressive and is one to watch in the system.

Double-A Northwest Arkansas: LHP Noah Cameron (No. 20 prospect) was placed on the seven-day injured list retroactive to Friday with left forearm tightness. His last start was May 7, when he allowed one run in five innings with four walks and five strikeouts, and his season ERA across six starts is 2.97. Cameron was scheduled for more testing this week to determine the severity and a timeline for his return, so here’s hoping it’s nothing too serious for the 24-year-old.

Triple-A Omaha: INF Devin Mann has been turning some heads with his bat, notching a .932 OPS, seven doubles and four homers this year. He left a good impression in Spring Training and has some versatility in the field, with experience at first base, second, third and, to a lesser extent, the corner outfield. Mann has played first and second with Omaha this year, and he keeps climbing up the depth chart if the Royals need him at some point.