2015 Statistics: 20 G, 2 GS, 29.2 IP, 6.37 ERA, 4.75 FIP, 1.787 WHIP, 8.8 K/9, 4.9 BB/9
2015 Contract Status: 40-man roster, not arbitration eligible
Bryan Mitchell's cup of coffee in the Bronx in 2014 left fans and coaches alike with the thought that, although he needed some polishing, this kid had some good stuff and would hopefully contribute to the team in the near future. When 2015 began, it looked like those hopes might come to fruition, but the honeymoon soon ended, as Mitchell was batted around in the second half of the year. Now, I'm not sure anybody knows what the Yankees may or may not have with Mitchell, which puts his 2016 in question.
The Yankees drafted Mitchell in the 16th round of the 2009 amateur draft out of Rockingham County High School in Reidsville, NC. Instead of heading to UNC to become a Tar Heel, Mitchell decided to turn pro instead, and signed for $800,000. The Yankees liked Mitchell because of his powerful fastball and nasty curve. His fastball is definitely still a plus offering, touching 98 mph at times, and the breaking ball has so far shown itself to have the potential to be a good out pitch at the big league level.
Mitchell climbed steadily through the system after signing, although he wasn't particularly head-turning at any stop along the way. In fact, his career minor league numbers have him at 27-39 with a 4.27 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP. Nevertheless, he kept getting called up, and even took a leap forward in 2014, climbing from Double-A Trenton all the way to the Bronx by August. He made his first major league star on September 12, pitching five innings of six hit, two run baseball against a very good hitting Baltimore Orioles team. He threw another four innings of one-run ball in late September, and seemed poised to contribute to the 2015 team.
As expected, Mitchell eventually made his way to the big leagues, making his 2015 debut on June 20. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen in his first six outings, pitching to a 2.89 ERA and striking out nine batters in 9.1 innings with only 2 walks, but the Yankees needed a spot starer on August 1 against the White Sox, and Mitchell was roughed up for four runs on seven hits in just four innings. He returned to the bullpen for his next two outings, allowing just one run in six innings against the Blue Jays and Indians, but everything would change on August 17.
Mitchell was making his second start of the season, this one against the Twins in New York, and had allowed one run through 1.2 innings, when a liner off the bat of former Yankees infielder Eduardo Nunez struck him in the face. It was a very scary moment, as Mitchell was walked off the field by pitching coach Larry Rothschild with a towel covering his bloody face.
Remarkably, Mitchell was only diagnosed with a nasal fracture, and would return to the team just eleven days later. Unfortunately, he seemed like a completely different pitcher out there. He played ten games after coming back to the team, and they weren't pretty. In 8.2 innings, Mitchell allowed 13 hits, 10 walks and 12 runs, which left a 12.43 ERA and a WHIP of 2.76 over that span. In the ten games before his injury, he'd pitched 21.2 innings, while only allowing 6 walks, and ERA of 3.86 and a WHIP of 1.47. To me, the most glaring difference in those stats is the walk rate, which went up from 2.57 BB/9 to 10.4 BB/9. Mitchell is a guy who allows hits no matter what, so putting an extra eight guys per nine via the walk was a real killer for him. He's never had Greg Maddux precision or anything, but his 4.3 career walk rate isn't "Wild Thing" Rick Vaughn-esque either.
In the end, I gave him a C- because he showed some good progress in the first part of the season. I also took into account the injury, and the fact that it can't be easy getting back out there after such a scary thing. As far as next year goes, I think the time off during the offseason should help him get his mindset back, and he could rediscover the poise he showed early in 2015. That being said, I really think the Yankees should focus on Mitchell as a reliever only moving forward. His fastball plays much better out of the bullpen when he can go all out, and his changeup hasn't yet developed like the organization had hoped. He'll be just 25 in April, so I haven't lost faith in Mitchell's potential just yet. I'm hopeful he'll be back to normal next season, and he will be able to contribute.