After spending all of the 2008 and 2009 seasons and the first part of the 2010 campaign with the High-A Stockton Ports, Jermaine Mitchell finally made his Double-A debut midway through the 2010 season. However, he didn't start to take the Texas League by storm until the 2011 campaign. Now he is an early season candidate for league MVP. Through Wednesday, Mitchell led the Texas League in OBP with a .485 mark. He also led the league in batting average (.365), runs (53), walks (44), and triples (13).
Mitchell has had to work hard to get where he is, working tirelessly to make the jump from High-A with Stockton to now Double-A in Midland. He was a standout performer during his first two pro seasons in 2006 and 2007 with short-season Vancouver and Low-A Kane County, but his career appeared to stall with Stockton. In 2008 and 2009, Mitchell managed OPSs of 715 and 676, respectively, for Stockton. He showed some improvement in 2010 when he posted a 841 OPS in a season split between High-A and Double-A, with a short stay in Triple-A, as well. His OPS in the Texas League last season was only 629, however.
After making a few adjustments from last season, including strengthening his top hand and creating a routine for before games, Mitchell has made great strides in Double-A this year. We spoke with Mitchell on Tuesday about his standout season and how he has made these improvements.
Gabby Micek: You've been playing extremely well offensively. Would you say that this is as locked-in as you have ever felt? What adjustments have you made to enhance your productivity at the plate?
Jermaine Mitchell: Yes, I would say it is. I've never hit this well. I made a few adjustments, including getting a routine going and just trying to stick to it. I also just try to stay positive, and go out there and have fun everyday.
GM: You said that your biggest adjustment was getting a routine; what exactly is that routine?
JM: Before the game I have a top hand drill, which gets me ready. I do that off the tee in the cage. It helps me stay locked in and use my top hand. In the previous years I felt like I was losing it, so I have been working on making it stronger which has been the biggest difference in my swing.
GM: What exactly does the top hand help with?
JM: It helps me stay through the ball, and not come up as I swing.
GM: What do you think the main difference for you this year has been that has allowed you to be so successful?
JM: I have just been trying to stay positive, go out there and have fun every day.
GM: Did playing well at Triple-A last year [Mitchell had a game-winning hit in a key game for the River Cats in their run for the playoffs late in the season] give you confidence going into this season?
JM: No, not really, I just want to perform well. I did pretty well up there, but it's a new season so you always want to do better than what you did in the previous season.
GM: You are leading the league in triples. Are you thinking triple every time you hit a ball in the gap?
JM: I'm always thinking at least two [bases] out of the box. If it's in the gap I am always going try to go for three unless they cut it off. But my goal is to get at least two.
GM: Is batting lead-off your favorite spot in the line-up?
JM: Batting lead-off is perfect for me. If I get to the major leagues, that's where I'll be. I'm a lead-off type guy. It's the best thing for me to do to get maximum experience.
GM: What are your goals for the rest of the season?
JM: I just want to stay strong, and healthy and finish the season well. Go out there and have fun, and continue to be blessed.
GM: Is there anything you're looking to improve?
JM: I really want to improve on getting jumps and reads [as a base-runner] which is a big thing for me in order to improve on getting my amount of stolen bases higher. One of the keys is trying to pick up on pitchers tendencies and learn when to go and when not go.