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Yankees Prospect Profile: Bryan Mitchell

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After a cup of coffee last year, this fringe pitching prospect has a chance to contribute in 2015.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Background

Bryan Mitchell spent most of his early life in North Carolina. He attended high school in Reidsville, North Carolina, and then he was recruited by the University of North Carolina to play ball for the Tar Heels. When the Yankees drafted him in the 16th round of the 2009 draft he decided to rebuke UNC's offer and instead went pro after signing for a $800,000 signing bonus.

He spent the next four seasons slowly progressing from Rookie ball to High-A with pretty poor results. In any sample larger than 40 innings over that time, he never had a walk rate below four per nine innings, never had an ERA below 3.50, and the same could be said for his FIP. His strikeout rates were never spectacular either, but he continued to progress through the system and the organization seemed to like him.

Mitchell entered last season as a blip on the radar as scouts began to notice his above-average fastball and curveball, and the possibility of an average changeup. That sentiment largely maintained itself throughout the 2014 season until it was clear that the change just wasn't coming around. Mitchell has what appears to be a plus-fastball that can peak at 98 mph and an absolutely nasty curveball, but the changeup is poor enough that he may be relegated to the bullpen.

2014 Results

Trenton (AA): 14 G, 13 GS, 61.1 IP, 8.80 K/9, 4.26 BB/9, 4.84 ERA, 4.09 FIP
Scranton (AAA): 9 G, 8 GS, 41.2 IP, 7.34 K/9, 3.46 BB/9, 3.67 ERA, 4.44 FIP
Yankees (MLB): 3 G, 1 GS, 11.0 IP, 5.73 K/9, 2.45 BB/9, 2.45 ERA, 3.22 FIP

As previously mentioned, until 2014 Mitchell had pretty poor results and still managed to move up the ranks. So it was particularly fitting that in 2014 that his results weren't all that impressive either before he finally managed to reach the big league level. His strikeout rate was decent at Double-A, and even at Triple-A given the sample size, but he still had a lot of trouble commanding the strike zone–45 walks in about 100 innings is not great... at all.

Despite his statistical struggles, the Yankees organization truly believed that his stuff was good enough to warrant a call-up and he made his major league debut on August 10th. He made his first big league start on September 12th, getting credited with the loss as he pitched five innings on two earned runs, six hits, two walks, and two strikeouts. For a fringe prospect who was pretty unspectacular throughout his minor league career, even reaching the highest level is a pretty big achievement.

2015 Outlook

If there is a year for Mitchell to truly break out, it's 2015. Even though the fifth starter spot is in the hands of Chris Capuano, I would reckon that Joe Girardi would have no problem handing that role over to Mitchell if he proves himself. And of course, the inevitable injury could force Mitchell into spot starts of some kind, so he will absolutely get an opportunity.

I am admittedly not a huge fan of Mitchell (as a starter) despite his stuff, but I do think the Yankees see something of value in him. If anyone remembers, Brian Cashman turned down a trade of Mitchell for Dustin Ackley, and Ackley is about a two-win player at a position of need, with three years of team control to boot. He's no star, but Ackley is an actual major league baseball player, and Mitchell is but a hope. If the organization finds Mitchell to be more valuable, then it certainly piques my interest. There's a good chance that Mitchell reeks as a starter, but two plus pitches in a relief role can be valuable in its own right. Considering how shaky the rotation is, Mitchell's success--or possible lack thereof--could prove crucial this season.